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Saturday, April 13, 2024

UF soccer can clinch share of SEC title with win at Georgia tonight

<p>UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh talks with her team following Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&amp;M on Sept. 10, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh talks with her team following Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 10, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

While Florida’s regular season ends on the road, it can be considered a homecoming for one of the team’s — and the collegiate sport’s — biggest stars.

Savannah Jordan, the Southeastern Conference leader in goals with 17, played high school soccer in Fayetteville, Georgia, which sits just under 100 miles from the site of tonight’s match at 7 in Athens, Georgia — home of the Georgia Bulldogs.

Though the sample size is small — she’s played only one game for UF in her home state — Jordan has fared well when playing in the Peach State.

In her freshman season, she scored two goals at Georgia, each assisted by former Gator Havana Solaun.

"It’s fun because you have your family base and everyone there supporting you," senior defender Claire Falknor said about playing a game in her home state.

Falknor experienced a similar affair early in the season, returning to her home state of Ohio to compete in an eventual 1-0 overtime loss against Ohio State.

"It’s always good to come back home," Falknor said, "and show how far you’ve came."

While Jordan recognizes what it means to return to where her athletic development began, she knows that this game provides a greater motivation than to just display her talent to the local crowd.

"If we get this win," Jordan said, "we kind of clinch the SEC title."

It’s that simple. A five-game win streak has helped launch the Gators into prime position to win the conference.

With No. 6 Florida (13-3-1, 7-2-1 SEC) tied with Missouri at the top of the SEC table, a win against Georgia (5-10-1, 4-6-0 SEC) will clinch at least a share of the regular season title.

In the case that the Gators win along with Missouri winning its home game against Texas A&M tonight, it will be the second time in three years that Florida would share the regular season title.

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"(Tonight’s game) is just another opportunity for us to work on some things going forward," coach Becky Burleigh said.

If Florida earns a better result than the Tigers tonight, it will win its first outright regular season title since 2012.

But coach Becky Burleigh and her team aren’t putting all of their focus on the implications of tonight’s game.

She’s said in the past that results haven’t been a focal point this season, and the most her team can do is control what they can control.

Tonight is no different.

Florida will face a Georgia team that, despite being one of three SEC teams with double-digit losses on the season, is on a two-game winning streak and has won against both conference teams that the Gators lost to this year: Auburn and TAMU.

Georgia is also vying for a spot in next week’s SEC tournament, and a win against the sixth-ranked team in the nation will secure a spot in Orange Beach, Alabama, for the Bulldogs.

UGA’s situation places some pressure on the Bulldogs to do well, and that’s something that Burleigh feels Florida can use to its advantage.

A spot on the conference’s highest pedestal is on the line for the Gators, but the Bulldogs have a lot to fight for as well.

Ultimately, Burleigh knows that this game isn’t one that will catch the Gators off-guard.

"That’s going to heighten our team’s attention towards this game," Burleigh said.

"They’re playing at home and they’re playing to get in the SEC tournament. You don’t really need much more motivation than that."

 Follow Kyle Brutman on Twitter @KBrut13

UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh talks with her team following Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 10, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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