Seven wins, 10 losses, and four ties.
Kaylan Marckese finally ran out of magic.
It’s a far, far cry from last year’s record of 17-7, 2016’s record of 17-5-1 and 2015’s record of 19-4-1. Becky Burleigh’s 2018 campaign with the Florida Gators’ women’s soccer team was marred by her first regular season losing record and two separate streaks of goalless play, both instances her squads have seldom ever experienced. Her team proved during its SEC tournament run that the program won’t be declining any time soon despite the poor play across the season.
It started off typically for the Gators. After a 4-0 romp in an exhibition against FGCU, they bested Washington and breezed past FAU to start the season 2-0.
It was during the team’s next six matches when the first disaster struck. It went scoreless for six straight games, shattering the program’s previous record of three set in its inaugural season in 1995. Florida lost five of those games and found itself reeling as it began conference play with a 2-5-1 record.
Conference play started out smoothly. Although it dropped its first match to Vanderbilt 2-1, UF came back to defeat Kentucky 6-0 and LSU 4-1. It finally seemed as if the Gators’ squad the world used to know was prime to re-emerge in the final stretch of the season.
That is, until their ghost had come to haunt them once again.
Florida’s scoreless streak returned, and the team played its next four matches without finding the back of the net, losing two of those matches and tying in the others.
The team closed out the last three games decently. The Gators dropped a match to a very poor Missouri squad but bested Georgia and took an impressive win over Arkansas that guaranteed them a spot in the SEC Tournament.
Auburn -- the Gators’ first matchup in the tournament -- finished their regular season 12-5-1. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see UF fall out of the wildcard round, considering its late stretch and early opponent.
Except it didn’t.
Florida defeated Auburn in penalty kicks to advance to the next round, where it would face a No. 1 seed Vanderbilt, who already defeated it earlier in the season. Surely this was to be the match where the team would exit the tournament.
UF not only defeated Vanderbilt, but also shut out its offense completely, upsetting the SEC’s best team.
Even though the Gators would exit the tournament in the next round after taking Arkansas to overtime, ending their season, the improbable tournament run showed that they refused to die quietly.
The future still looks murky despite the Gators’ solid end to their season. The senior class consisted of 10 students this year, and impact veterans such as goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese, midfielder Lais Araujo and defender Rachelle Smith won’t be with the squad when it suits up in 2019.
Still, not all hope is lost. Forward Deanne Rose, gone for most of the year due to international play, will still be on the squad to lead it during her junior year at UF. The younger players, such as defender Georgia Eaton-Collins and forward Madison Alexander, showed promise in the 2018 campaign.
With Gators veterans departing and younger players ready to take center stage, coach Becky Burleigh has one thing to prove when 2019 rolls around: This year’s team was the exception and not the new norm.
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells or contact him at [email protected].