Tonight’s clash at Dizney Stadium will feature two of the most talented rosters in collegiate women’s soccer as No. 1 Stanford (2-0) travels to No. 8 Florida (2-0).
The match, kicking off at 5 p.m., will serve as a rematch from a year ago, when the two heavyweights met as top-10 opponents in Palo Alto, California.
Last season’s contest saw the Cardinal take a 1-0 victory in overtime, following a trend of Stanford narrowly getting the better of the Gators. The Cardinal are 4-0-1 all-time against UF. But four of the five meetings have spilled into overtime.
Despite losing such tight matches to Stanford in the past, UF coach Becky Burleigh is excited about the opportunity that playing the nation’s top ranked team brings.
“We’ve had some great battles with them,” Burleigh said. “That’s a team we love to play because we feel that we bring out the best in each other. So we’re looking forward to that.”
This year’s battle looks to be no different from years’ past, especially in the midfield. Three midfielders taking part in tonight’s match have been named to the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy watch list, the highest individual honor in collegiate women’s soccer.
UF’s Gabby Seiler is the lone Gator on the list and is one of the most crucial pieces of Florida’s attack. The redshirt senior, who wears the captain’s armband for UF, is a versatile player who can be difficult to defend.
“She’s one of those players that’s capable of playing pretty much everywhere,” Burleigh said of her captain. “I think it just gives our team more versatility when we have somebody like that.”
Seiler, who was named to the All-SEC First Team a season ago, already leads her team in goals with two in as many games, playing everywhere from center back to attacking midfielder in the process.
The other two midfielders featured on the MAC’s Hermann watch list come from a Stanford side that has posted two players on the list for the third consecutive season.
Cardinal midfielder Andi Sullivan has made the preseason list each of the last two seasons, finishing as a finalist for the 2016 Hermann Trophy.
The senior finished last season with career highs in goals (11), assists (7) and points (29).
Alongside Sullivan in the midfield is sophomore Tierna Davidson. While Davidson didn’t bounce off of the stat sheet like Sullivan last year and only registered two goals and two assists, she played in all 21 of the Stanford’s matches as a freshman. Davidson’s contributions last season were enough to place her on the 2016 All-Pac-12 Second Team and the 2016 Pac-12 All-Freshman team.
Yet the quality of Stanford’s midfield won’t be the only major obstacle the Gators must overcome if they are to see victory over the Cardinal.
Florida has been without its starting goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese, who played every match for UF a season ago. Marckese suffered a hand injury just before the start of the season, thus passing responsibilities in net onto sophomore Susi Espinoza.
Espinoza has yet to face a shot-on-goal in Florida’s first two matches and will receive her first true test tonight when the match with Stanford kicks off.
You can follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh puts her arm around defender Rachelle Smith (81) following Florida's 3-2 win against Florida Sate on Aug. 30, 2015, at James G. Pressly Stadium.