UF’s ghost has returned to haunt it just in time for Halloween.
The Gators (4-8-3, 2-3-2 SEC) haven’t exactly spooked opposing defenses. They’ve gone four games without a goal, channeling the spirit of their stretch earlier in the year where they failed to score for six straight games.
It appeared Florida had exorcised its demons after finding the back of the net 10 times in two games during the beginning of SEC play. But it seems the Gators’ penchant for goose eggs has reared its ugly head at the worst time as the team attempts to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the third time in 23 years.
They’ll face off against an eerily similar opponent in the Georgia Bulldogs (4-7-4, 1-4-2 SEC) when they attempt to defend their home turf on Thursday.
While the prospect of a six-match scoreless streak may seem like an unfeasible rut for any soccer team to go through, the Florida Gators aren’t alone. The Bulldogs have tied Florida’s record from earlier in the year.
Florida has struggled mightily this year, but Georgia’s had it worse. The Bulldogs rank second-to-last in goals, assists and points in the SEC, only beating out Florida in shots (178 to UF’s 171).
There are a few bright spots for the Bulldogs that may present a challenge to the Gators, however. Georgia ranks first in saves among the SEC, clocking in 80 so far, with UGA goalkeeper Emory Wegener contributing 79 of them. The team also ranks ahead of UF in goals allowed, which may cause a Gators team — with only 17 goals to its name all season — quite a bit of trouble.
To Score or Not to Score?
That is the question. The Gators will face two of the SEC’s worst teams in their next three games, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be worried.
Rest hasn’t come easy for Florida. On top of its scoreless streak of four games, two of them have gone to double overtime. Although the tiring marathons are sometimes sweetened by victory, UF hasn’t had anything to show for the long treks. If the two teams bring Thursday’s match to double overtime once more, the extended playing time could wear down on Florida in a final stretch where it desperately needs to be fresh.
There’s also the matter of Melanie Monteagudo. She’s a staple in the team’s starting lineup who was given a red card in the closing moments of the second overtime period in UF’s tie with Alabama. As a result, she’ll sit out against Georgia, leaving the team at less than full strength for the upcoming tilt.
Florida will come into the matchup with the upper hand from previous meetings, as it currently leads the series 29-2-1 and got the best of the Bulldogs 3-0 when the two last met.
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Forward Melanie Monteagudo (right) will play in her last home game on Friday along with seven other UF seniors. The Gators will be fighting with four other programs for the final three spots in the SEC Tournament.