No. 4 Florida’s biggest issues during its loss to No. 1 North Carolina on Feb. 11 was its inability to win most of the draw controls.
Part of the reason why the Tar Heels controlled most of the game was because they were able to score and keep possession of the ball by winning faceoffs.
And with No. 3 Southern California looming at the end of the week, coach Amanda O’Leary knows what her team needs to work on if it wants to bounce back against the Trojans.
“We are focusing a lot on the draw,” O’Leary said. “They play a zone defense … so we’ll have to make some adjustments to our offense to accommodate for their zone, but otherwise, we’re pushing the basics.”
USC will be a challenge for the Gators, as it will be one of the few instances where Florida will play a team it hasn’t played before.
Unlike other teams Florida will face this year, the only preparation it will have is the film from USC’s first two games.
O’Leary said that despite having film on the Trojans, it will be harder for the Gators to prepare for them just because they haven’t played USC before.
“Until you see a team firsthand, it’s a little difficult to gauge their speed on film,” O’Leary said.
USC is currently 2-0 with an easy 20-2 win over St. Mary’s and a hard-fought 11-10 overtime victory over No. 10 Northwestern.
Florida, meanwhile, is 0-1 after its loss to top-ranked UNC.
In goal, USC has junior Gussie Johns, who faced Florida as a part of the U.S. National team. However, in that exhibition game before the season, UF scored 19 goals.
Florida will see the full-time emergence of a new starting goalie this season in Haley Hicklen.
“She’s a competitor, but yet doesn’t get rattled,” O’Leary said. “We have so much confidence in her. Sometimes (we are) overly confident she’ll make the save.”
After playing backup to Mary-Sean Wilcox last season and making 62 saves while receiving significant playing time, Hicklen is Florida's unquestioned starter this season.
In her first game, Hicklen recorded 12 saves and scooped up five ground balls.
But despite Hicklen’s play in goal, Florida will need to win the draw controls and adjust to USC’s zone defense if it wants to win on Friday night.
“The interesting thing about this game is we haven’t played them before," O’Leary said, "so there is always that piece of uncertainty about what they can do.”
UF senior Mollie Stevens fights off a North Carolina player during Florida's 13-10 loss to the Tar Heels on Feb. 11, 2017, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.