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Monday, June 24, 2024

Tessa Barton, Josie Curtis find new home in Gators soccer team

Two Florida soccer transfers add new chapter to their collegiate journeys

Senior forward Tessa Barton (8) and junior defender Josie Curtis (9) stand alongside their teammates before Florida’s match with Arkansas Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022.
Senior forward Tessa Barton (8) and junior defender Josie Curtis (9) stand alongside their teammates before Florida’s match with Arkansas Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022.

It can be a leap of faith for college athletes to enter the transfer portal. 

After the NCAA updated its transfer rule allowing incoming student athletes to play for their new school immediately, there’s been a major uptick across collegiate sports in the past couple of years. The Gators soccer team saw 12 players enter the transfer portal in the off-season after former UF head coach Tony Amato was fired from his position. 

Florida relieved Amato from his position after complaints from players revealed inappropriate comments about their eating habits surfaced, according to a WUFT article. He coached the team for one season and finished 4-12-4, the worst record in school history.

Despite the coaching change, UF players Tessa Barton and Josie Curtis remained committed to transferring to Florida. 

Curtis, a junior defender from Florida Gulf Coast University, and Barton, a senior forward from the University of Colorado, both committed to the Gators while the team was still coached by Amato. However, the coaching change didn’t deter them from their move to Gainesville. 

Curtis wanted to remain in Florida after entering the transfer portal, she said. She reached out to schools throughout the state, but she said it was Amato and his staff who invited her to visit. 

The offer stood out to her, she said, despite her season-ending injury in a match against Florida during her sophomore season. She fell in love with UF after her visit, she said, and was thrilled to join the Gators. 

Curtis joined the team last Spring, and began her Florida tenure under the old staff. However, after Amato, she said she was worried about who would be the next coach.

“Everybody was definitely on edge,” Curtis said.

New head coach Samantha Bohon and her staff did a great job of taking charge of the team and personally connecting with the squad, Curtis said. 

“You knew they wanted that connection, which was really nice to know,” she said.

Curtis has made an immediate impact for Florida and has been a workhorse, starting in all 13 matches this season.

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Barton, a Colorado native, played three seasons for the Colorado Buffaloes before embarking on a new phase of her college soccer career. She initially wanted to stay close to home, but she said she hit a point in her career where she felt brave enough to enter the transfer portal.

“It was scary,” Barton said. “It takes a lot of nerve and just trust in the process.”

She always knew about UF due to its prestigious football team and athletic department, she said. Her parents had purchased a house in Orlando, which made the move more plausible. It was her visit to Gainesville, however, she said which secured her commitment. 

Getting to play in the Southeastern Conference stood out to her as an immediate benefit to her transfer, she said. 

“I think the SEC is a powerhouse,” Barton said.

Before Barton could join the Gators, Florida let Amato go. Her last call with the former coach was five minutes before he was fired, she said. 

“That was a shock,” she said. “I started freaking out.”

Barton thought her decision on where she would play next was final, but Amato’s exit left her in limbo, she said. She constantly reached out to UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin to find out who the next coach would be, Barton said. 

Upon hearing Bohon would be the next coach, Barton sent out several emails to get to know her. Bohon asked Barton to visit UF again. 

“I knew right away when I met Sam, she was someone I wanted to play for,” Barton said. 

Barton said she’s enjoyed the time she’s spent under Bohon, and appreciates how she has taken time to get to know Barton and understand her personally — all while Bohon was going through her own transition to UF. 

It was exciting to add Barton to the Gator family, Bohon said. 

“[Barton] shares the values of being a good teammate, working diligently and investing in the growth of this program,” Bohon said.

Barton was nervous when she first arrived on campus, she said, but her new friends and the coaching staff helped ease her nerves.Her parents’ support also helped her overcome her anxiety. Her parents’ Orlando home is still several hours away, but she said they still make an effort to attend her matches. 

Barton has missed some time this season due to injury, but has played in 11 matches, starting in seven of them. She’s contributed two goals and an assist. 

Curtis and Barton will look to build a solid foundation for the Gators as the team transitions out of one of the worst seasons in program history. 

Contact Jackson Reyes at jacksonreyes@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @JacksnReyes.

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Jackson Reyes

Jackson Reyes is a UF journalism senior and The Alligator's Fall 2023 Sports Editor. He previously served as Digital Managing Editor and was a reporter and assistant editor on the sports desk. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and watching Bo Nix.


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