It has been a long time since the Florida soccer team faced a Senior Day like this.
With just one regular season game remaining, the Gators (5-9-3, 3-4-2 SEC) are in real danger of missing the SEC tournament for the first time in program history. UF currently sits in eighth place in the conference standings, with only the top 10 teams advancing.
The top seven teams have all clinched, and five teams are mathematically fighting for the final three spots. Crucially, UF will enter play on Thursday with a three-point advantage over Mississippi State and Alabama, the two teams on the outside looking in.
The situation is not a familiar one for Florida’s senior class. The Gators won the regular season SEC championship in 2015, followed by a fourth-place finish in 2016 and a third-place finish last year.
Of course, if Florida does end up missing the SEC tournament, it is almost guaranteed to miss the NCAA tournament for just the third time in history.
The desperate situation the team finds itself in ahead of what is usually a celebratory occasion underscores how far the Gators have fallen this year. They have been shut out 11 times and barely average a goal per game, the fourth-worst mark in the conference. They are also allowing the fifth-most goals in the SEC.
Things won’t get any easier on Thursday when Arkansas comes to Gainesville. The Razorbacks (11-3-3, 6-2-1 SEC) are currently tied for second in the SEC and received the most votes of any team not ranked in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll. UA is also 3-0 against teams that are currently ranked.
If it’s any consolation, Florida does lead the all-time series between the two sides 21-1. The two teams have not met since the 2016 SEC Tournament final, which Florida won.
Florida’s 10 seniors, including this year’s leading goal scorer Lais Araujo and captain Sarah Troccoli, will be honored before the 6:30 p.m. kickoff. Forward Melanie Monteagudo, midfielders Brittney Bennett, Briana Solis and Mayra Pelayo, defenders Courtney Douglas, Rachelle Smith and Sara Wilson, and goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese will all be honored before the game as well.
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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.