The Gators have a shot at redemption. Some on the team are calling it an opportunity for payback.
No. 17 Florida (13-5-0, 7-3-0 SEC) squares up against Auburn (7-5-5, 4-2-4 SEC) in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 in Orange Beach, Alabama. It will be the first time the two sides have met since a 1-0 Tigers victory in Auburn on Oct. 15.
The Gators came into that match riding a wave of offensive production. The team was in the midst of a four-game SEC winning streak, outscoring opponents 11-1 over that span. The Gators were also looking to avenge two straight losses to the Tigers, having been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Auburn in 2016.
This season, Auburn goalkeeper Sarah Le Beau was a brick wall against the Gators. And brick walls aren’t easily scored on.
Florida ended up with seven shots on goal, all of them saved by Auburn’s Le Beau. It was her sixth shutout on her way to seven for the season, tied for second in the SEC.
Although the Gators held the Tigers to just one shot on goal for that game, that one shot made all the difference as Auburn secured a 1-0 victory.
UF coach Becky Burleigh said revenge wasn’t far from her or her players’ minds coming into the tournament.
“I think our team was really excited that that’s what our draw was,” Burleigh said.
A handful of Gators will be coming into the tournament boasting fresh honorary titles.
Midfielders Gabby Seiler, Parker Roberts and Deanne Rose, the three top scorers on the team, were named First Team All-SEC while they practiced Sunday morning before departing for Alabama. Defenders Rachelle Smith and Kristen Cardano received Second Team All-SEC honors.
As the Gators loaded onto busses to depart Donald R. Dizney Stadium, Seiler and Smith were surprised to learn of the accolades.
“I think it’s awesome, going into postseason, just getting some recognition” Seiler said. “But I think ultimately, we want to come into the SEC Tournament, come out with a win and come up with an SEC Tournament title.”
Seiler, a redshirt senior, echoed her coach’s sentiments about the rematch with the Tigers.
“Going into that Auburn game the first time, I think we played really well,” Seiler said. “So I think just going into this game, (we’re) just having the same mentality and kind of just coming out for revenge.”
Seiler, the team’s captain throughout the regular season, has been sidelined by a knee injury since the team’s 2-1 win at Tennessee on Oct. 22. She said she did some light running in practice before the team got ready to leave, though Burleigh said Seiler was “day-to-day.”
Smith, a junior defender from Pembroke Pines, said she was confident heading into the tournament.
“We’re definitely going to win the next game, I believe,” Smith said. “We’re playing Auburn first. Right there off the bat, we get revenge. After that, another revenge, another revenge.”
Should the tournament shake out the way Smith sees it, Florida would play Texas A&M and South Carolina in the semifinals and finals matchups, respectively. Both are teams the Gators lost to during the regular season. Smith said she wants the challenge of playing the No. 3 Gamecocks in the championship.
“I want revenge,” Smith said. “I want to play again. I think we should have won that game. We dominated. I just can’t wait for a rematch.”
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