Coach Becky Burleigh insisted that her Florida team would be starting with a clean slate as it headed into SEC play before its match against Vanderbilt on Sunday.
However, Florida left the match with a loss, and it’s now abundantly clear to the Gators that their four-game losing streak has to end fast, or they may find themselves unable to recover.
Here’s what the Gators (2-6-1, 0-1 SEC) have been working on before the team travels to Kentucky and what they can expect from the Wildcats (4-6, 0-1 SEC) on Thursday.
Orange and Blues
At the beginning of the season, UF hoped to capitalize on the momentum of an Elite Eight finish in the NCAA tournament by starting the year off strong.
Those hopes were not realized.
Florida hasn’t won a match in six of its last seven contests. Its best result since Aug. 19 was a tie against UCLA. The Gators broke a six-game goalless streak when midfielder Lais Araujo found the back of the net against Vanderbilt, but the team still lost the match 2-1 despite outshooting the Commodores 12-6 over the course of the game.
In the team’s limited practice time in Gainesville, one of its main focuses was finding ways to improve offensively.
“We’re working on our shape and how to win the ball back,” Burleigh said. “Attack in their final third. If we can win the ball higher up the field, that gives us more potential opportunities offensively.”
Burleigh said Florida’s mindset has to be focused on just one thing heading into Lexington: positivity.
“The only way we can do something productive is to stay positive,” she said. “That’s what our definition of positive is. It’s just good and useful thinking at this point.”
Florida leads Kentucky in the series 21-4-3, and the Wildcats haven’t defeated the Gators since 2014.
Anarchy at the UK
The Wildcats enter Thursday’s match with a streak of their own.
Kentucky has dropped its last two games, including its SEC opener against Missouri. The team saw a break in SEC play with a loss to Lipscomb but continues its regular SEC schedule against UF.
Burleigh isn’t looking past the Wildcats despite their losing record and dropping six of their last seven.
“At this point, everyone is a tough opponent for us,” she said. “Certainly, we respect any opponent we play at this point.”
The player the Gators will hope to contain on Thursday is sophomore midfielder Yuuka Kurosaki. She leads her team in points with four goals and one assist.
Kurosaki isn’t afraid to take chances. She has taken 20 shots this season, two more than the Gators have managed in their last three games.
The team should also be wary of midfielders Miranda Jimenez and Hollie Olding, who’ve scored twice and three times, respectively.
You can follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells or contact him at email@example.com.
Senior Lais Araujo finally broke UF's scoreless streak (six games) with a goal in the 78th minute of the 2-1 home loss to the Commodores on Sunday.