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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Movin’ on up: Florida freshman goalie becomes starter, keeps the job

<p>Kaylan Marckese</p>

Kaylan Marckese

Kaylan Marckese walked onto campus this Summer and didn’t plan on seeing the field.

The St. Petersburg native was thought to be the backup goalkeeper behind redshirt junior Val Tysinger.

That waiting mentality quickly changed soon enough.

After the Gators lost two Southeastern Conference matches early in the season, the goalie competition heated up.

Marckese won.

Her role changed from getting a few minutes for experience to full-time starter halfway through the year.

• • •

Marckese’s transition from backup to starter was fueled by a healthy position battle between her and Tysinger.

Through the first four games of the season, Marckese stood on the sidelines, watching as Tysinger led the Gators to a 3-1 record.

In the fifth game of the season, a 3-2 win between then-No. 8 Florida and Oklahoma State, coach Becky Burleigh put Marckese into the game during the second half, a predetermined strategy.

Burleigh alternated starts between Tysinger and Marckese for the next six matches until the Gators lost 3-2 to Auburn on Sept. 27.

With Tysinger at keeper, the Tigers scored three second-half goals, including the game winner with 25 seconds to play.

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Tysinger didn’t start another game.

• • •

Marckese didn’t expect to see the pitch this year.

Despite spending her senior year as a starter for her club team — Tampa Bay United Premier 97 — she knew college soccer was a different monster.

Plus, with Tysinger being in Florida’s program for three years heading into the season, Marckese had a feeling playing time would be slim.

But when her name was called, she took advantage of it.

"It was amazing getting (playing time)," she said, "but with a keeper like Val, I had no problem splitting time like that."

Marckese would get the nod in her first collegiate start against Kentucky on Oct. 2 and Burleigh would continue to deploy the young keeper.

Throughout the remainder of the season Marckese wrote her name in the Florida record book.

In Marckese’s first shutout victory against Arkansas she became one of three goalkeepers in Florida history to provide an assist on a goal.

Marckese played the ball out of the penalty area toward a streaking Briana Solis and joined Taylor Burke and Brittni Goodwin as the only goalies to have an assist on the stat sheet for UF.

Marckese finished the season 14-1-1 in the net (7-1-1 as the starter) and helped lead the Gators to the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

• • •

Marckese said her relationship with Tysinger has been the catalyst for her improvement this season.

"Val has taught me a lot and I like to think that I push Val the same type of way, " Marckese said. "We just work really hard. We work really well together, so we always have fun and we’re always motivating each other to be better."

And even though the two goalkeepers were splitting time on the field, the other young players on the team saw how much of an impact Tysinger’s leadership had on the freshman goalie.

Solis, a freshman midfielder, "I remember she said she was a little nervous telling them what to do and stuff. But as the season came along, they tell her ‘everything’s okay’ and they’ve been communicating really well."

• • •

The prospect of having two potential starting goalkeepers isn’t something Burleigh has had to deal with recently. Her previous goalie, Taylor Burke, was a four-year starter and led the Gators to an SEC title and four straight NCAA tournament appearances.

But this isn’t Burleigh’s first position battle at the net.

In 2007 and 2008, she split time between two goalies: freshman Meghan Berlingo and redshirt freshman Katie Fraine.

Both Berlingo and Fraine fought for playing time, seeing more than 900 minutes of match play in both seasons. Ultimately Berlingo transferred to Washington State in January following the 2008 season.

The main difference this time is the age gap between the two players and the competitive relationship the goalies said helped them both improve this season.

Tysinger waited for her turn behind Burke and stepped into the starting role to open the season, but Marckese’s hard work opened up the position battle.

Marckese, the university’s youngest student-athlete, transformed from a new face in one of the nation’s top collegiate soccer programs to one of the leaders on the Florida soccer team.

Tysinger said that the competition between the two goalies fueled her to keep improving personally.

"When I see someone else working hard, that makes me want to work hard," Tysinger said. "Because if my teammate’s willing to work that hard for the team, I want to work that hard for the team too."

Burleigh said the competition between the goalkeepers was something she wished was the same type of competitive relationship that spread throughout the entire team.

"Val and Kaylan have had this unbelievable partnership where they’ve pushed each other all year," Burleigh said.

"I know Val has given Kaylan some tips … and I think Kaylan has provided some ways that she has pushed Val. I think between the two of them, we get the best of both in every performance."

Follow Ryan Summers on Twitter @RyanSummers18

Kaylan Marckese

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