Lais Araujo

Midfielder Lais Araujo leads the Gators in goals (5) and points (13). She’s also tied for second on the team in assists (3).

The Gators have scored 10 goals in their past two games after going on a six-game scoreless streak earlier in the year. Florida is riding the momentum for the moment, but a certain team from Starkville, Mississippi, may just be the test UF needs to entirely confirm that reports of the Gators’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Mississippi State has only lost twice this year. Both of those losses came in conference play, so the Bulldogs will hope to get back on track before it’s too late. Here’s what to expect from MSU — a team attempting to reclaim its legitimacy after a strong start to the season — and UF, a team that’s just now finding its identity heading to Starkville:

 

A burgeoning offense

Last week was a good one for the Gators (4-6-1, 2-1 SEC).

UF convincingly defeated Kentucky on the road 6-0 and LSU at home 4-1, gaining a spark it desperately needed.

Lauren Evans and the rest of the team raised awareness for pediatric cancer after its game against the Tigers, and midfielder Lais Araujo was recognized for her stellar performance over the past two games as the SEC Offensive Player of the Week.

This Friday, however, the Gators will face their toughest SEC competition yet. Mississippi State received 29 votes in the latest top-25 tally. Neither Florida nor its last two opponents received any. With UF looking to continue its hot streak and the Bulldogs attempting to overcome their bad start in SEC play, MSU could be Florida’s biggest roadblock to its recent success.

 

Starkvegas has the hot hand

Araujo may be on a hot streak heading into Friday’s game, but the Bulldogs have an offensive juggernaut of their own.

MSU forward Zakirah McGillivary brought home her second SEC Freshman of the Week honors after a clutch goal from 25 yards out completed the Bulldogs’ upset over then-No. 13 South Carolina. McGillivary has netted six goals over the course of the season for Mississippi State, one more than Araujo. Four of those goals were game-winning shots.

Araujo has her work cut out for her. The Bulldogs’ defense has been stingy, only giving up nine goals in 10 games with six shutouts in that span. The Gators will need to rely on the dynamic play from Araujo and the rest of the offense to break through MSU’s line of defense.

 

Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells or contact him at [email protected].

 

River Wells is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida women’s tennis team. He has previously covered UF swimming and diving. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.