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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

UF focused on improving composure heading into Friday’s match

<p>UF defender Claire Falknor dribbles during Florida's 1-0 win against Western Michigan on Nov. 14, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

UF defender Claire Falknor dribbles during Florida's 1-0 win against Western Michigan on Nov. 14, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

Opponents have been trying to disrupt the No. 5 Florida soccer team’s main strategy of ball possession throughout four postseason matches.

Texas A&M tried to stop the Gators’ dominant possession-style play in the Southeastern Conference tournament final and Western Michigan tried the same approach in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Both teams implemented a defensive approach that put pressure on every Florida player once they were in possession of the ball.

The defensive approach started with the opponent’s forwards pressuring the defensive backline of Florida and contesting every pass down the field.

Coach Becky Burleigh said her team struggled with defensive pressure this season, and that it will be something they work on leading up to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"For us it’s just having composure, and I think that’s something we didn’t do a very good job of in the second half," Burleigh said about the team’s performance against Western Michigan.

"We didn’t have great composure and that started at the top with me."

During practice this week, the Gators (18-3-1, 8-2-1 SEC) will attempt to replicate the high pressure situations that William & Mary might bring on Friday night.

Junior forward Savannah Jordan said that the first-round game showed that the team still has room for improvement.

"I think Western Michigan had a good game plan coming into the game," Jordan said about the Broncos’ defense.

"I think they played great defense, they high pressed us and trapped us in some areas."

No one knows the effects of an opponent’s high pressure more than the backline and senior defender Claire Falknor.

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Falknor said the biggest personal takeaway from the first round of the tournament is that the team needs to continue trusting each other.

With such a young roster, trust has been a work in progress all season for Florida.

"I think that we need to deal with high pressure better," Falknor said.

"I think that learning to do that even if things aren’t going well, and they’re high pressuring us, and it’s making it difficult, to trust one another and just keep working on what we do with keeping the ball at the feet and one and two touch."

Falknor said that even if a teammate appears to be covered, the players need to trust their abilities against the pressure.

"A lot of times it seems like the person’s not open and they’re under pressure but we just need to keep passing and working off and moving off each other," Falknor said.

"I think that’s the key thing, it’s what makes us different, is moving off the ball."

The Gators have won 10 straight games and freshman goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese said the team’s confidence is continuing to grow. She thinks the team now knows how to deal with a potential high-pressuring line from William & Mary on Friday night.

"The biggest thing for us is to try and get it in their half," Marckese said.

"So that way if we do make a mistake in possession we have some room to recover. But it’s really just building and offering from our midfield and our forwards to help out our backline. We’ve been doing really well with that lately."

 Follow Ryan Summers on Twitter @RyanSummers18

UF defender Claire Falknor dribbles during Florida's 1-0 win against Western Michigan on Nov. 14, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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