UF coach Becky Burleigh isn’t fooled by Ohio State’s record.
The Buckeyes were ranked No. 23 in the nation and opened the season with road trips of herculean proportions at No. 11 Duke and No. 4 North Carolina.
The Buckeyes have been blanked in both games 2-0. The nightmare opening for OSU comes to an end when it plays No. 5 Florida in Gainesville tonight at 7.
The 0-2 start for the defending Big Ten champs isn’t the focus for Burleigh heading into the matchup. Rather, it’s the Buckeyes’ quality.
“There’s definitely an upgrade in competition for us,” she said. “I think it will be really good for us to test ourselves.”
The Buckeyes were predicted to finish second in the Big Ten preseason coaches poll behind Penn State. Their impact players include midfielders Arden Holden (2nd on team in assists with 7 in 2017) and Sarah Roberts (5 goals in 2017), as well as defender Izzy Rodriguez. All three were included on the preseason Big Ten Players to Watch list.
Florida, meanwhile, is riding high after opening-weekend victories over Washington and FAU. Forward Cassidy Lindley had a whale of a debut, scoring her first collegiate goal and netting three assists. Her five points leads the Gators. She was named SEC Freshman of the Week for her efforts.
Other players looking to carry momentum into this weekend include midfielder Sammie Betters and forward Madison Alexander. Both have scored in each of Florida’s games so far. In addition, goalkeeper Susi Espinoza set a career high in saves against FAU (7). She will most likely split goalie duties with senior Kaylan Marckese this weekend.
Florida has a quick turnaround following its contest with Ohio State. The Gators will travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to take on Oklahoma State for their first road game of the season on Sunday.
Burleigh said she isn’t too worried about having to play two games in two different parts of the country over three days.
“Story of our lives,” she said. “Just the way soccer season is.”
The upcoming weekend is just the beginning of what is arguably the toughest stretch in Florida’s schedule. Starting with Ohio State, the Gators will play seven consecutive games against teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year. Four of the seven are currently ranked, including No. 2 UCLA, No. 6 FSU and No. 8 Southern California.
“We definitely have tough opponents coming up,” senior defender Sara Wilson said. “But I think that’s what makes us Florida soccer. Dealing with those tough situations definitely makes us who we are.”
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Midfielder Sammie Betters has scored on her only two shots this season.