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Thursday, July 07, 2022
<p>UF goalkeeper Haley Hicklen.</p>

UF goalkeeper Haley Hicklen.

After winning the draw control to open the second half, Southern California’s Kerrigan Miller rushed down the field.

As she shook her defenders and got closer to Florida sophomore goalkeeper Haley Hicklen, Miller readied her shot and fired.

But Hicklen was ready for it.

The goalkeeper knocked the ball away, making a huge stop for the Gators that quickly turned into a goal on the other end of the field.

That save added to Hicklen’s 13, a career high and just two shy from tying a school record for most saves in a single game.

“Haley is, in my opinion, one of the best goalies in the country, and I think she showed that tonight,” coach Amanda O’Leary said after the USC game. “She had multiple saves, she handles the ball under pressure, so I thought she played fantastic.”

Hicklen is a part of a strong defensive unit that has limited its opponents’ scoring chances.

Included in that defense are senior captains Caroline Fitzgerald and Taylor Bresnahan, junior Aniya Flanagan, and freshman Cara Trombetta.

Over two games, the Gators have limited their opponents to 48 shots on goal. Hicklen has saved 25 of them.

Florida has caused 26 turnovers, and the defenders have 25 of Florida’s 57 ground balls.

The Gators’ defense has also done things well that do not appear on the stat sheet.

They force their opponents to use up most of the 90-second shot clock, which causes opposing attackers to feel the need to rush to get the shot off.

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They even lock down on one-on-one opportunities, forcing their opponents to fall behind the net or retreat backwards.

“It starts in practice,” Fitzgerald said. “Taking every day and learning from the game. Taking everyday one by one working hard making each other better, whether it be defensively working the offensive players a little harder and vice versa.”

While the defense has played well against ranked opponents like No. 1 UNC and No. 3 USC, it shouldn’t have too much of a problem when it goes up against Jacksonville University Monday in Jacksonville.

JU has taken 44 shots on goal, netting 25 of them, and has forced 23 turnovers.

The Dolphins are coming off two close losses to Ohio State and UMass, only losing by one goal each time.

Florida owns a 6-0 record against the Dolphins (0-2), including a 15-8 victory the last time these two teams met in 2015.

"We are really looking forward for the opportunity of playing our first road game,” O’Leary said in a release. “Jacksonville is a talented and well-coached team, and they've already been involved in a couple close games this season so it will be very important that we stay focused and work together as a team."

Contact Jake Dreilinger at jdreilinger@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.

UF goalkeeper Haley Hicklen.

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