Meggie Dougherty Howard and Gabby Seiler stood in front of their teammates last week and posed two questions.
Do you want to play in the college cup?
Every person in the room raised their hand.
Do you feel we will make it to the college cup if we continue to play at this level?
No one raised their hand.
Since the presentation, No. 18 Florida (8-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) has been solely focused on achieving its long-term goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament’s final four, and coach Becky Burleigh is determined to make sure her team will be there two months from now.
The Women’s College Cup takes place during the first weekend of December. The Gators have made it to the college cup twice in the program’s 22-year history, with their last appearance coming in 2001.
Burleigh and her staff want to break that 14-year drought, and the five-time Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year has turned the idea of advancing to the final four into a rallying cry.
She calls it the “December standard.”
“Basically, all of our behavior, all of our choices, the way we train, is that good enough to be at a standard where we’ll still be playing in December?” Burleigh said. “That kind of gives us something to point back to and focus on.”
The slogan began after senior Dougherty Howard and redshirt junior Seiler gathered their teammates and posed the two questions to them after a couple of UF’s recent losses in conference play.
“I think the big part of it was it came from the players,” Burleigh said.
“Not just those two players, it came from our leadership group and just the players in general knowing that we couldn’t continue to play the way we were playing.”
Burleigh decided to paint an orange line at the entrance of the team’s practice facility as a reminder to her players that everything they do in practice needs to be done in preparation for December.
And after shutting out Tennessee on Sept. 25 and LSU on Friday, that preparation will continue into UF's Thursday match against Georgia as it tries to keep its two-matching winning streak alive.
“I think it’s going to be something really impactful as we move forward in the season,” Burleigh said.
“I’m glad that our athletes are the ones that are driving that, too.”
Meggie Dougherty Howard dribbles the ball during Florida's 3-2 win over UCF on Sept. 18.