The last time the world saw the UF women’s soccer team, it was shut out in a 2-0 loss against SEC rival South Carolina in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Now, with 10 of their starting players back on the roster, a No. 7 ranking in the
United Soccer Coaches preseason poll and a freshman class boasting numerous accolades, the Gators aren’t lacking in pressure as their 2018 campaign begins on Friday in an exhibition match against Florida Gulf Coast.
Perhaps Florida’s best returning player is its leading scorer from 2017 in sophomore Deanne Rose, whose freshman performance of nine goals, three assists and 21 points earned her First Team All-SEC honors.
Redshirt junior Parker Roberts and senior Rachelle Smith, the Gators’ two other All-SEC representatives, return to the pitch for 2018 as well.
On the opposite side, UF will look to fill the hole left by Gabby Seiler, who graduated after the 2017 season.
“Leaders like (Seiler) don’t come around that often,” head coach Becky Burleigh said in a release after last year’s loss to South Carolina.
Seiler, who clocked in six goals, eight assists and 20 points during the 2017 season, was one half of the Gators’ dynamic offensive duo and an offensive spark that Florida will hope to replicate in 2018.
The exhibition against FGCU will see UF’s freshman class take to the pitch for its first game. Of the five incoming freshmen, three ‒ Taylor Baksay, Mary Peace and Samantha Toba are forwards and will compete with returning players Alyssa Howell, Madison Alexander and Melanie Monteagudo to earn a starting forward spot.
All three come to the Gators with experience under their belt: Baksay earned Pinellas County Athletic Conference North county first-team honors in 2018, Peace was a member of Orlando City in the Elite Clubs National League and Tobar played with Boca United F.C.
The other two freshmen, defender Georgia Eaton-Collins and midfielder CassidyLindley, will also be in an uphill climb to earn a starting spot.
Eaton-Collins’ resume is impressive, having played with England’s national team at five age groups and winning Player of the Year 2017-18 for the Arsenal Under-20 team.
However, both Smith and junior Julia Lester will be returning this year after starting during the 2017 season, leaving Eaton-Collins and senior Sara Wilson with tough competition.
Lindley, awarded MVP for the West team in the 2017 High School All-American Game in Orlando, is one of 14 midfielders on the roster, five of which are returning starters from the 2017 season.
The Gators will test the waters with their freshman class and returning backbone against FGCU, a team that finished its 2017 season with a 14-4-1 record.
The Eagles scored a goal against South Carolina in a 2-1 loss early in the season, a feat UF couldn’t accomplish in 2017. The team should prove a decent first test for Florida, as it won the Atlantic Sun Conference last year but was eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by USF, a team that the Gators defeated 1-0 in the second round.
The match will take place at the FGCU Soccer Complex at 7 p.m.
Sophomore Deanne Rose is UF's leading returning scorer. She tucked away nine goals and three assists in 2017.