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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Tony Amato ready for road test against USF

Gators hit the road and head for Tampa for the first match of the season

Goalkeeper Val Tysinger chases the ball during Florida's 2-1 win against Troy in an exhibition match on Aug. 11, 2015, at the soccer practice field at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Goalkeeper Val Tysinger chases the ball during Florida's 2-1 win against Troy in an exhibition match on Aug. 11, 2015, at the soccer practice field at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

The new Gators soccer head coach Tony Amato is ready for his coaching debut and first road trip of the season.

Florida hits the road Thursday to take on No. 20 South Florida at 7 p.m. in Tampa, Florida.  Amato looks forward to his first match versus a ranked opponent. The Gators enter the regular season off a 2-1 exhibition win over Southern Mississippi last Wednesday.

The Bulls blasted through their exhibition match against Jacksonville, 6-1 on Aug. 7, and now they look to put a dent in their 1-6-2 overall series record versus  the Gators.

USF only participated in the spring portion of last season and finished an impressive 6-0-1. In the postseason, it swept the AAC regular season and tournament titles.

The programs last met in the latter half of the 2020-21, when the two battled to a scoreless tie. 

Amato pointed out the Bulls have an advantage with their team cohesion with returning coaches and players. 

South Florida goalkeeper Sydney Martinez returns to the net after only seeing 17 minutes of playing time last season. 

Florida, however, still needs to figure out the kinks in its system and gather a fresh gameplan.

“We're working really hard to paint a clear picture of what we need from the game tomorrow,” Amato said Wednesday. “We’re not totally in that place, but we will be by seven o'clock tomorrow and we have the rest of today and all day tomorrow to get in that place.”

The Gators bring in eight newcomers made up of seven freshmen including Riley Thompson and Madison Young. Thompson led Development Academy teams in 2018 for the most goals with 32 then came in second the following year with 39. 

Young arrives at UF with an impressive resume of her own. The Miami Herald voted the defender as 4A-2A Player of the Year in 2021, the same season she boosted her team to a 4A FHSAA state championship.

Sophomore midfielder Julianne Leskauskas arrives to the team after she started 13 matches for Rutgers.

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Returning veterans like junior forward Kouri Peace and redshirt sophomore midfielder Nicole Vernis take the pitch again after strong performances in the exhibition game. 

Peace tallied a score and an assist while Vernis scored the equalizer versus the Golden Eagles in the 67th minute.

Kick-off from Tampais set for 7 p.m. in Corbett Stadium and the action can be streamed on ESPN+.

Contact Jesse Richardson at jrichardson@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352.

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