Florida’s soccer team won’t have two prominent players for its conference bout against No. 12 Texas A&M this weekend.
Midfielder Ava Kuyken and forward Deanne Rose are out of the country due to national team commitments with England and Canada, respectively.
Both players have been key components of a UF attack that has outscored its opponents 14-2 throughout the Gators’ current five-game win streak.
“Obviously it would be nice to be able to pick and choose the times they are gone where they wouldn’t miss games,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “But that’s just not the way it works.”
With Kuyken and Rose unavailable for Sunday night’s game, Florida will need a resounding team effort to take down the Aggies at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
“We’ve been kind of experienced in losing players like this,” Burleigh said. “So I think, in some ways, it helps other players gain a lot of valuable experience.”
UF’s offense is at its best when defender Kit Loferski is making runs down the sideline. Her blazing speed forces the opponent’s back line out of position, which creates channels for midfielders like Parker Roberts and Tess Sapone to exploit.
Loferski’s ambition going up the field has resulted in two goals and a team-high four assists for the redshirt junior.
“With that aggression, I think it’s really challenging for whoever she is matched up against,” Burleigh said. “When she’s aggressive, she’s really hard to contain.”
Forward Vanessa Kara has turned things around after a slow start to her Florida career. The graduate transfer registered zero goals in the first six games of the season but has found the back of the net six times in her last five appearances.
Kara’s recent form resembles her time at Drexel (2015-2017), where she accumulated the second-most goals (22) and third-most assists (11) in program history.
Loferski, Kara and the rest of Florida’s attack must work together to keep up with Texas A&M’s high-powered offense. The Aggies have peppered opposing teams with 20.42 shots per game (seventh in the nation), which has resulted in 32 goals (tied for fourth in the nation) scored through 12 games.
Unlike their offense, the Gators’ defense will be at full strength this weekend, as defender Georgia Eaton-Collins was not called up to England’s national team. Having her will help Florida slow down Texas A&M’s attack, and that starts with shutting down Jimena Lopez, who leads the NCAA in assists (11).
Follow Bryan Matamoros on Twitter @bryan_2712. Contact him at [email protected].