Florida’s soccer team is in the middle of a five-match road trip. This stretch features five top 25 opponents, three top 5 opponents and a contest against the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles.
On Tuesday, the Gators flew to Los Angeles to face two of those top 5 teams: Southern California (5) and UCLA (4). While these opponents are much stiffer competition than Friday and Sunday’s contests against Florida Atlantic and South Florida, those games should give them confidence heading out west, here’s why:
Espinoza in goal
Entering year one as the full-time starter, Susi Espinoza has been brilliant in her first two games in 2019. The 5-foot-6 goalkeeper registered a career-best eight saves against USF.
In 2018, Deanne Rose only played 10 games in a Florida uniform because of her time spent with the Canadian national team. However, the junior from Ontario, Canada, is now back for the Gators and has been UF’s biggest scoring threat so far this season with three goals in two games.
“We all know how good she is, it’s just great when she’s able to be here,” coach Becky Burleigh said about her star player. “This season’s going to be a lot better than last season in terms of her availability, so we’re excited about that.”
A healthy Loferski
Redshirt junior Kit Loferski’s Florida career, to this point, has been riddled with injuries. After contributing as a freshman in 2016 by appearing in 19 games and scoring three goals, 2017 and 2018 brought her season-ending knee injuries. Now that she’s at full health and netted a goal against the Bulls, Loferski has already given a boost to UF’s scoring, an enormous problem for the team in 2018.
In addition to coach Burleigh getting back a healthy Loferski, she is confident after their last two victories.
“Those were two big wins for us because we were on the road against two quality opponents, USF’s a ranked opponent,” Burleigh said. “Always tough to play both of those teams, and I think that both of those teams will do really well this year, so really happy to start out 2-0.”
USF was ranked No. 18 heading into Sunday’s game, but the Gators’ dominant 2-0 performance knocked them out of the top 25. Furthermore, Florida received more votes in the most recently updated poll (44) than the Bulls did (36).
The past two games have already helped UF climb back into top 25 territory. Continuing to face tough opponents provides the Gators plenty of opportunity to move up.
“Our next three games are against three teams in the top 5,” Burleigh said. “We’ll know a lot more about our team after this week.”
Follow Graham Marsh on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UF forward Deanne Rose scored three goals in the Gators' first two games. She only played in 10 games in 2018 due to her obligations to the Canadian national team.