When redshirt junior Gabby Seiler transferred from Georgia to Florida in 2014, she was an attacking midfielder who put pressure on opposing defenses.
During her two years in Athens, she tallied 10 goals and 31 points.
But when a pair of Florida defenders suffered injuries earlier this season, Seiler was moved to centerback — a position she never played at the collegiate level — and became one of the focal points of Florida’s backline.
“I think she felt like she would do whatever it took to help the team,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “Certainly that’s helped us in terms of just her ability to anticipate the ball, her ability to come out of the back with the ball. She’s been really good.”
Since she made the position change on Sept. 30 against LSU, Florida’s defense has been difficult to score on.
In the first 10 matches without Seiler in the backline, Florida gave up 16 goals.
In the 11 matches since, the Gators have given up only six goals and have shutout seven teams, including then-undefeated No. 2 South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
“When they put Gabby Seiler back there, me and (Gabby) work very well together,” defender Kristen Cardano said.
“So I know tactically when she goes, I hold. Or if I go, she holds. So we’re constantly covering for each other and having each other’s backs.”
But even though Seiler is one of the most experienced players on Florida’s roster, she has never played past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s cool,” Seiler said. “The nerves are obviously there, but they are good nerves and positive nerves. It’s really exciting to even be in the NCAA Tournament, but even making it past the first round is just really awesome.”
On Friday, when UF faces Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament’s second round, Seiler and the rest of Florida’s backline will have a big test against the Badgers, a team the Gators have never played.
And even though playing against an unfamiliar opponent can be a daunting task, Seiler said she is ready for the challenge.
“You get to play someone in another conference, which is cool and exciting and a different style of play,” Seiler said.
“That’s the cool thing about the NCAA Tournament is you do get to play other teams from other conferences. So I think it’s exciting."
UF midfielder Gabby Seiler dribbles down the field during Florida's 5-2 win against Iowa State on Aug. 19, 2016, at James G. Pressly Stadium.