Shortly before UF announced Samantha Bohon as the new head coach of Gators soccer in May, Bohon met her future players and staff on Zoom; rectangular boxes contained faces in search of a leader, someone to guide them after their worst season in program history.
Bohon made one thing evident: Relationships would take precedent in her program.
Her introduction came shortly after UF athletic director Scott Stricklin parted ways with former Gators manager Tony Amato in April. Current and former players detailed comments Amato made about their bodies and eating habits during his tenure, which lasted less than a year, according to a WUFT News report.
“My thorough evaluation of the soccer program is that there [was] a disconnect between Tony and his athletes,” Stricklin said in a statement April 25.
Despite the scandal — and Florida subsequently losing 12 players to the transfer portal — returning players said Bohon promises to help the team meet its expectations on the field while fostering connections beyond the game.
“Life came over us,” senior midfielder Syd Kennedy said. “She was talking about building relationships and helping us fall in love with the sport again.”
Bohon brings 20 seasons of collegiate coaching experience into her new role. The former Duke Blue Devil player spent the last 15 years managing Embry-Riddle as the Eagles transitioned into NCAA Division II play; they made eight straight NAIA postseason appearances and catapulted themselves into the NCAA Division II Round of 16 in 2019.
The Gators’ finished the season with a 4-12-4 record and a 3-6-1 record in the Southeastern Conference. The team won a national title in 1998 and finished .500 or better every year from 1996 to 2017.
The team is establishing an identity for what the program should look like on and off the field, Bohon said.
“That would be for me a little bit of a blue-collar mentality,” she said. “Where we're going to work really, really hard day in day out.”
Players and staff need to work on building a familial network both in and out of soccer, Bohon said. She wants to reach out to alumni and foster cooperative relationships.
She hired two assistant coaches, Josie Rix and Adam Godwin, along with new goalkeeper coach Jack Rushworth.
Bohon brought senior forward Tessa Barton and sophomore defender Josie Curtis from the transfer portal; Barton hails from Colorado University, and Curtis made a shorter move from Florida Gulf Coast.
Bohon’s presence is exactly what the team needed, senior forward Alivia Gonzalez said.
“I think our new coach is already making connections and wanting to befriend us,” the forward said.
As the Fall draws near, Bohon’s first goal, she said, is to recapture the team’s joy in their game — the kind of joy that makes athletes long to continue on to higher levels of competition.
“You forget sometimes just the kid-like joy that you had when you played your sport,” Bohon said.
Brenda Bogle is a UF journalism senior with a specialization in sports and media. She joined The Alligator in the Fall of 2021.