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Monday, March 04, 2024

Seiler, Espinoza step up for Gators in Week 2

<p>Florida players celebrate during UF's 2-1 win against Syracuse on Sunday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

Florida players celebrate during UF's 2-1 win against Syracuse on Sunday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

Courtney Brosnan guessed wrong.

The Syracuse goalie jumped to her left as Gabby Seiler’s penalty kick rolled past her right. The score made for her fourth goal of the season and second in a weekend when the No. 8 Gators (4-0) defeated No. 1 Stanford (2-1) on Friday and Syracuse (2-1-1) on Sunday.

The contributions of Seiler and UF goalie Susi Espinoza played a prominent role in the second weekend of the regular season.

Seiler, who has started every match for Florida, was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. A redshirt senior defender, Seiler has scored a goal in every match for UF this season and has exhibited her versatility on offense, often moving between center back and the attacking midfield.

Along with her 8th-minute goal against Syracuse — her second penalty kick goal of the season — Seiler pushed forward Friday on a Gator attack against Stanford, netting a header in the 79th minute to level the match, 2-2.

In goal behind Seiler, Espinoza had seldom seen the spotlight of college soccer. But the goalkeeper was cast under the brightest spotlight of UF’s young season, a clash with visiting No. 1 Stanford where her team was down 2-1 in the second half.

“We weren’t worried about it,” Espinoza said. “We usually get together when we go down. The environment was, ‘We’re on our field. We’ll play for each other. We’re going to get it back.’ ”

Espinoza, a sophomore, has unexpectedly started every match in goal for the Gators this season. Kaylan Marckese started every match between the posts for Florida last season, but the junior suffered a thumb injury in practice just before UF’s opening exhibition match with Mississippi State.

Against Stanford and Syracuse, Espinoza stepped up huge for the Gators, registering nine saves in the two matches combined, five against Stanford.

“Susi is a great shot-stopper,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “But to be thrown into a situation like this for your fourth collegiate game, that’s a pretty impressive situation to come out on top of.”

Espinoza also made clutch saves in both of the weekend’s matches. She caught a last-chance bullet in the closing minute against the Cardinal and sprawled to make a kick-save on the Orange’s best scoring chance.

The Gators goalie will start her first-career road match outside the state of Florida when UF travels to Seattle, Wash. to face off with Washington on Sept. 1 and Portland on Sept. 3.

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You can follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr, and contact him at mstine@alligator.org.

Florida players celebrate during UF's 2-1 win against Syracuse on Sunday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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