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Monday, February 06, 2023

Despite great play from Cassidy Lindley, UF still has work to do

<p>Coach Becky Burleigh (center) celebrates with her team following its victory over USF in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. </p>

Coach Becky Burleigh (center) celebrates with her team following its victory over USF in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. 

Freshman Cassidy Lindley has  propelled the Gators during their two-game winning streak to start the season. The rookie midfielder was credited with an assist on Florida’s first goal in its 2-1 win against Washington in the season opener.

She still wasn’t satisfied.

It had always been a dream for Lindley to find the back of the net in a Gators uniform.

She didn’t have to wait much longer. Lindley secured the third of Florida’s four goals against FAU on Sunday in the opening minute of the second half.

Lindley’s efforts over the two matches earned her the season’s first SEC Freshman Soccer Player of the Week award.

“(Cassidy) is taking a lot of key points we’ve been giving her,” senior defender Sara Wilson said. “She’s been doing what she knows to do best. She’s an outstanding player.”

Coach Becky Burleigh also sang praises of Lindley’s first two games.

“Great debut,” Burleigh said. “I’m happy she got playing time and that she got on the board. It’s tough to ask for a better opening weekend.”

The Gators’ success has also been boosted by junior midfielder Sammie Betters, who scored an equalizing goal in UF’s match against Washington and knocked in a header against FAU.

Sophomore forward Madison Alexander has also scored two goals this season, knocking in the winning strike against Washington with the second against the Owls in the 35th minute. The pair will look to continue its play as UF defends Donald R. Dizney Stadium against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Friday.

UF will hope to improve upon its defense of free kicks as it continues into the season. Set pieces have plagued the Gators in their first two games. All three goals Florida has given up this season came from dead balls, and UF has been strenuously drilling to prevent further scoring in that manner with a particular focus on the goalkeepers.

“Most of the set pieces are corner kicks and free kicks,” Wilson said. “We’re working our goalkeepers as much as we can.”

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Burleigh is optimistic about the team’s ability to defend set pieces in future games, however, and says that it has looked good in practice.

“(We’ve seen) good effort,” she said. “I think some of it is communication and getting on the same page during the season. It’s a great opportunity to have it highlighted so we have a chance to fix it.”

The Gators also struggled defensively in their match against FAU, conceding two goals in the second half after leading the Owls 3-0.

“We’d like to keep the ball better,” Burleigh said. “Especially in the middle third.”

Burleigh said after the victory over FAU that the team can’t let its victories hide its issues moving against Ohio State and beyond. Despite the Buckeyes’ 0-2 start to their season, Burleigh said she isn’t looking past them.

“It’s definitely an upgrade in competition for us,” Burleigh said. “I think (Ohio State) will be really good for us to test ourselves.”

River Wells is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at rwells@alligator.org

 

Coach Becky Burleigh (center) celebrates with her team following its victory over USF in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. 

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