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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Despite dominant past, UF struggling against SEC

<p>UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh puts her arm around defender Rachelle Smith (81) following Florida's 3-2 win against Florida Sate on Aug. 30, 2015, at James G. Pressly Stadium.</p>

UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh puts her arm around defender Rachelle Smith (81) following Florida's 3-2 win against Florida Sate on Aug. 30, 2015, at James G. Pressly Stadium.

The Florida soccer team’s dominance in the Southeastern Conference over the past decade has been undeniable.

UF has possessed a stranglehold on the SEC since 2006, winning eight out of 10 regular season titles behind an 88-17-7 record against conference opponents over that span.

But the No. 18 Gators (7-3, 2-2 SEC) now find themselves in seventh place in the league’s standings more than a third of the way through their conference schedule.

It hasn’t been the start most expected.

Recent losses to Arkansas and Auburn mean Florida will most likely need to be nearly perfect the rest of the way if it wants to repeat as SEC champions.

UF has never won a regular season title with three conference defeats on its resume.

The Gators have seven matches remaining on their schedule, with their next contest coming at 8 p.m. against unranked LSU (6-6, 1-3 SEC) in Baton Rouge.

“I think we’re really motivated, especially now since we’ve had a couple losses,” redshirt junior midfielder Gabby Seiler said.

“I think we know where we stand and where we need to be, so I think going on the road is going to be a huge motivation to get a huge win there.”

One area of focus for Florida against the Tigers will be getting its offense going early on in the match.

UF possesses one of the most potent scoring attacks in the country, averaging 2.7 goals per game.

However, the Gators have developed a pattern of starting out slow, with the majority of their scoring done in the second half or overtime periods.

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Nineteen of the Gators’ 27 goals this season have been scored after halftime.

And over their past six matches, 14 of their 15 goals have been scored after halftime.

“I think it takes us 15-20 minutes to figure out what the other team is doing,” Seiler said.

“So I think in the second half we come out and we know exactly what we’re going to do.”

LSU is one of the more physical teams Florida will face in its remaining schedule.

The Tigers have committed 107 fouls and received 10 yellow cards this season, both third highest in the SEC.

“I think the big thing for us is to make sure that we control the controllables for us,” coach Becky Burleigh said.

“All of the things that we’ve been talking about in our team, for example, patience in our offense, relentlessness in our defense, things like that.

“I think those things we just have to do at a really high level.”

Contact Dylan Dixon at ddixon@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon.

UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh puts her arm around defender Rachelle Smith (81) following Florida's 3-2 win against Florida Sate on Aug. 30, 2015, at James G. Pressly Stadium.

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