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Sunday, February 05, 2023
<p>Sophomore attacker Sammi Burgess fights for a ground ball during UF's 17-11 loss to UNC at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

Sophomore attacker Sammi Burgess fights for a ground ball during UF's 17-11 loss to UNC at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

After No. 2 Florida flicked a season-best 37 shots and let up just one goal per half in a 16-2 win over Vanderbilt last weekend, it’s hard to imagine that the Gators had much to work on leading up to Saturday’s noon slate against Temple at home.

But coach Amanda O’Leary knows that her team isn’t near where it needs to be come postseason play.

The biggest problem, which has been the case all season, is draw controls.

Even in last weekend’s lopsided victory, UF couldn’t outdraw its opponent.

“We have a lot of people that can take the draw,” O’Leary said on Monday. “However, we need to be able to get those ground balls.”

She said that draw control situations need to stop turning into 50-50 opportunities and the players need to be more competitive off the line.

Despite scoring a season-best six free position goals against Vanderbilt, O’Leary says that free position situations also require improvement — Florida (10-1, 1-0 Big East) is currently tied for 54th in the nation in free position shot percentage at 42.9 percent, a number that betters that of its Saturday opponent.

Temple (8-2), which will play its first Big East match of the season Saturday, makes just 34.8 percent of its free position attempts, but that is just one of the few flaws the Owls hold.

Offensively, Temple ranks ninth in the country in scoring offense with 13.7 goals per game. Led by seniors Rachel Schwaab and Megan Tiernan, who both have 20-plus goals and 10-plus assists this year, the Owls have scored at least 15 goals in six of their last eight games.

Freshman goalkeeper Haley Hicklen, who nabbed a career-high six saves last game, said that she’s confident the UF defense can stall the visitors’ attack.

“Obviously defense is important, but our defense is outstanding,” Hicklen said. “They limit the number of shots every game and that’s very important.”

Temple also brings in the nation’s No. 4-ranked defense, allowing just 6.2 goals per game.

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UF hopes that its offensive versatility will help break the stout Temple back line — six different Gators have scored at least 10 goals this season.

“Everyone’s just really been stepping up,” said sophomore midfielder Allie Pavinelli, the Big East Attacker of the Week. “I think that everyone contributing to the attack has really helped us.”

While the Owls have some very lopsided wins on their schedule, as well as a closely contest 8-5 loss to then-No. 16 Louisville, Florida is paying little attention to what Temple has accomplished thus far.

“I think, for us, it’s really just focusing on our gameplan and focusing on us and what we’re told,” freshman midfielder Sydney Pirreca said.  “…Overall, focusing on us more than them is going to help us.”

Contact Kyle Brutman at and follow him on Twitter @KBrut13

Sophomore attacker Sammi Burgess fights for a ground ball during UF's 17-11 loss to UNC at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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