Becky Burleigh arrived at Monday afternoon’s practice donning slightly unusual attire: adult-sized giraffe onesie pajamas.
“I’m a little toasty,” the coach said in the 85 degree heat.
It’s a tradition that extends back over a decade for the Florida soccer team, with its players and coaches wearing costumes to practice each Halloween.
This year was no different, as a Tyrannosaurus rex, a gorilla, a pig, an elephant and even Donald Trump were among the wacky characters that roamed the practice field at Dizney Stadium.
However, Halloween wasn’t the only thing the No. 17 Gators (13-4, 8-3 Southeastern Conference) were celebrating on Monday, as the Southeastern Conference announced one day prior that five of UF’s players had been named to its all-conference teams.
Seniors Savannah Jordan and Meggie Dougherty Howard as well as redshirt junior Gabby Seiler received All-SEC first team honors. Junior Kristen Cardano was selected to the All-SEC second team, and Julia Lester was picked to the SEC All-Freshman team.
For Jordan, she was placed on the All-SEC first team for the fourth-consecutive time, making her the second player in program history to reach that feat along with Abby Wambach. The forward’s 34 points and 13 goals were second best in the conference in both categories after the regular season concluded on Thursday.
“It’s pretty cool,” Jordan said. “I always say that it’s a big honor to be in the same category as those types of players, especially Abby Wambach. So it’s a great honor, and I’m really happy to have achieved that this year again.”
Dougherty Howard was given All-SEC honors for the second year in a row after she was named to the conference’s second team in 2015. The midfielder started every match this fall and had a final statline of six goals and 19 points, both collegiate highs.
Seiler also made an all-conference team for the second time in her career. After transferring to UF from Georgia in 2015, she played multiple positions and started every match in her first season as a Gator. Seiler converted from midfielder to defender halfway through the year and played a big role in the seven shutout victories her team notched this fall.
While the SEC honored only five of Florida’s players this weekend, Burleigh was quick to point out that those personal accolades couldn’t have been obtained without help from the rest of their teammates.
“You can’t get people recognized without being a good team, so I look at those as really team awards,” Burleigh said. “Everybody really contributes to that even though individuals get recognized.”
Postseason play begins on Wednesday for UF when it faces Missouri in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. The Gators have won three of the past six conference tournaments.
UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh talks with her team following Florida's 5-2 win against Iowa State on Aug. 19, 2016, at James G. Pressly Stadium.