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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Gators close regular season against Gamecocks

Florida needs a win to secure an SEC tournament berth

Florida sophomore Anna DeLeon kicks a ball during the Gators' Sept. 23 game against Kentucky.
Florida sophomore Anna DeLeon kicks a ball during the Gators' Sept. 23 game against Kentucky.

The Gators’ battle for postseason play will conclude in a home matchup with South Carolina on Thursday night at 5:30 p.m.

Florida stands in ninth place in the SEC standings headed into the final match week of regular season play. Only the top 10 in the standings will compete for the conference championship, and both Mississippi State and LSU could leapfrog the Gators in the event of a Florida loss. 

Although a draw or loss could see Florida still qualify for the postseason, the Gators control their own destiny with a win. 

Florida enters Thursday’s match after a 4-0 demolition of LSU Sunday. The emphatic win broke a dismal stretch for the Gators, who lost five consecutive matches prior to their victory against the Tigers.

For Florida, its reversal of form comes at the most crucial interval, but South Carolina enters Thursday’s match coming off a 4-0 win of its own over Alabama.

The match should be an attack-heavy affair, as both squads enter with renewed confidence in their abilities up front. 

Forward Catherine Barry leads the Gamecocks with five goals, while forward Ryan Gareis and midfielder Lauren Chang have eight assists apiece.

South Carolina’s offense is hardly prolific, but a stellar defense has carried the Gamecocks into fourth place in the SEC. The Gamecocks may look like the stronger side on paper, but Florida is still fighting for its spot in the postseason, while South Carolina secured a berth weeks ago. 

With just one chance left to stamp its ticket to the dance, the Gators’ grit (or lack thereof) will prove the decisive factor in Thursday’s matchup. 

If Florida can bring the same intensity and attacking focus it brought in Sunday’s win over the Tigers, it will surely secure a spot in the postseason. 

The Gators take the field Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. The game can be streamed live through SEC Network+.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at rzehnder@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.

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