The only constant in the Gators’ offense has been inconsistency.
After a program-record six consecutive games without scoring, Florida soccer put 11 goals past Vanderbilt, Kentucky and LSU in a three-game stretch. In their most recent game, however, the Gators were shut out once again in a tie against Mississippi State.
Things won’t get easier this week as Florida (4-6-2, 2-1-1) faces the SEC’s two best defenses, starting with Tennessee on Thursday night in Gainesville.
The No. 9 Vols (9-1-1, 3-1-0) have allowed just four goals this season, the lowest total in the SEC, and have only given up .356 goals per game, the eighth-lowest total in college soccer.
The Gators, meanwhile, have scored just 1.42 goals per game this season, 10th in the SEC. They have also taken the least amount of shots of any SEC team. In what should be a low-scoring affair, Florida’s defense will have to step up to keep the Gators in the game.
Offensively, Tennessee is led by senior forward Bunny Shaw. Shaw was just named SEC Offensive Player of the Week after recording her second career hat trick in the Vols’ 3-1 win over Kentucky. The Jamaican, who earned First-Team All-SEC honors last year, is scoring a goal per game this season, which leads the conference by 0.15 over Missouri’s CeCe Kizer.
On Sunday, UF will travel to Columbia, South Carolina, to take on the No. 12 Gamecocks (9-2, 3-1) in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Quarterfinal matchup, which Florida lost.
The Gamecocks are hardly an offensive juggernaut. But their defense more than makes up for the lack of scoring. Anchored by junior Grace Fisk, last year’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year, South Carolina has allowed just five goals this season, the second-lowest total in the conference behind Tennessee.
As if playing two games against top-15 teams in four days wasn’t tough enough, Florida will be without two of its best players. Sophomore forward Deanne Rose is currently with the Canadian National Team. Rose has only appeared in four games this season after leading the Gators in goals last year. Freshman defender Georgia Eaton-Collins is also on international duty with the England U-19 team.
On the bright side, history is on UF’s side in both games. Florida owns an 18-8-3 all-time record against Tennessee and is 22-8-1 all-time against South Carolina.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gators will miss star forward Deanne Rose, who's on international duty with the Canadian national team, when they host No. 9 Tennessee on Thursday.