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Thursday, February 02, 2023
<p>Junior midfielder Parker Roberts (22) will lead the Gators (2-3-1) into a weekend with games against Florida State and Central Florida, calling it a "battle of the states."</p>

Junior midfielder Parker Roberts (22) will lead the Gators (2-3-1) into a weekend with games against Florida State and Central Florida, calling it a "battle of the states."

There are few college showdowns that evoke passion and ire like the longstanding conflict between Florida and Florida State.

But as the Gators (2-3-1) prepare to face off against both FSU and UCF during their in-state road trek over the weekend, UF forward Parker Roberts isn’t leaving out the Knights when it comes to rivalries.

“Every team in Florida that (we) play is a rivalry,” she said. “It’s like the battle of the states.”

It’s a “battle of the states” that the Gators hope to come out of unscathed, and both FSU and UCF will present a challenge to a UF team that hasn’t scored a goal in four games.

The Gators face their greatest hurdle first. Over the course of the six games they’ve played, the No. 3 Seminoles (5-0-1) have scored 16 goals while only allowing a single goal.

With Florida’s scoring woes -- the four games devoid of a goal is the longest scoreless streak in the team’s history -- it could attempt to focus on its lack of offense. But according to coach Becky Burleigh, the team has been doing quite the opposite.

“Most goals come from disrupting the other team and countering off of that,” Burleigh said. “It’s more about, ‘Can we keep the ball after we win it back and create something out of that?’”

Midfielder Parker Roberts elaborated on the tactic, explaining that the team was focusing on defending the Seminoles’ high-powered offense rather than attempting to improve its own.

“We’ve been focusing on our defensive presence,” Roberts said. “Defense wins championships. You can’t just have a good offense because people can score on you.”

FSU’s 2.67 goals per match is good for 26th in the nation and its single goal allowed is matched by just 12 other Division I squads.

“I wouldn’t wanna play any other team right now,” Roberts said. “Especially with it being Florida State, it’s really gonna pump us up.”

UCF, while a much better candidate for Florida to end its scoreless streak against, may still cause problems for the Gators.

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The Knights (1-2) have scored three goals and have three against them, though their opponents have included the No. 18 and No. 2 teams in the nation.

Something that would aid the Gators in both their matches would be the return of Deanne Rose, the team’s leading scorer from last year. However, Rose’s return isn’t certain to play much of a role for UF.

“She’s back, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s available,” Burleigh said. “We’re in talks with Canada about her status.”

The Gators will face off against FSU in Tallahassee at 7 p.m on Friday before traveling to Orlando two days later to play UCF at 6 p.m.

 

You can follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells or you can contact him at rwells@alligator.org.

Junior midfielder Parker Roberts (22) will lead the Gators (2-3-1) into a weekend with games against Florida State and Central Florida, calling it a "battle of the states."

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