For the second week in a row, Florida will play host for the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship.
The Gators (15-6) will face South Florida (13-3-2) tonight at 6 in the tournament’s second round at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. The two teams will play for a spot in Sunday’s third-round match, which will also be held at Dizney Stadium against the winner of Washington State and Tennessee.
As UF welcomes USF to campus, it also welcomes First Team All-SEC forward Deanne Rose back to its lineup. The team’s leading scorer missed the Gators’ past three games while playing internationally for her home country of Canada.
“She’s so excited to be back and we’re all excited to have her back,” UF defender Parker Roberts said. “She has so much speed and power, and she just brings something that is so different from anyone else.”
While Rose will add a new dynamic to the attack and has shown flashes of being Florida’s next superstar striker, it remains to be seen if she can be a reliable source of goals.
The freshman forward hasn’t scored in her last five games — since an Oct. 8 win at Vanderbilt. Since that match, UF has relied on substitutes to do most of the scoring. Seven of the Gators’ nine goals since the Vanderbilt game have been scored by substitutes.
“To get contributions from everyone in some ways makes us more dangerous because it’s not just one player you can mark,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “But the other side of that is having the reliability of people that can come in and score goals.”
Sarah Troccoli has shown reliability recently, scoring four of the nine goals over that stint. The junior midfielder’s impressive play has thrust her into the starting lineup for the NCAA Tournament, as she looks to score for the third consecutive game against USF.
However, South Florida has a reliable goal scorer of its own.
Evelyne Viens leads the Bulls with 12 goals and nine assists this season. The USF attack seems to run through Viens, who had a hand in each of USF’s three goals against Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the tournament.
“We’re definitely going to have to be ready for them because we really respect what they do,” Burleigh said.
While the Gators certainly respect their competition, they’re especially keen not to lose against an in-state rival.
“We’re the University of Florida, so everybody in Florida wants to beat us,” Roberts said. “And you don’t want to get beat on your home field. So I think it adds some extra motivation for us.”
You can follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.