The 2018-19 athletic calendar is upon us. The Florida soccer team opens the season on Friday with a home date against Washington. The Huskies defeated then #2 Florida 1-0 in an early season contest in Seattle last year. The Gators have a tough schedule this season that features eleven teams that made the NCAA Championships in 2017.
Here’s a little preview of the 2018 squad.
Rewind to 2017:
The 2017 Gators made a postseason run to the Elite Eight despite scoring only 38 goals all season. The mark represented the second lowest total in program history. The team finished the year 17-7, but were shutout in five of the seven losses. Florida was led by the solid play of do-everything senior Gabby Seiler and freshman phenom, Deanne Rose on the offensive end. Rose led the team with nine goals and 21 points, while Seiler added eight assists and 20 points.
The Gators fell in a heartbreaker to South Carolina in the NCAA regional finals by a 2-0 margin.
Florida loses Seiler, perhaps the most versatile player in program history as well as D Kristen Cardano, who added experience along a stellar back line last season. The Gators also lost midfielder Samantha Chung (transfer to Central Florida), whose game tying goal against then #1 Stanford led Florida to defeat the Cardinal.
Florida returns ten of the eleven starters from a year ago, one of the most experienced teams in the SEC and the country. In addition to Rose, Florida returns midfield staples Mayra Pelayo and Sarah Troccoli. Both seniors finished 2017 with ten points. Redshirt junior Parker Roberts has another year in the Gators system after transferring from Kansas. Along the back line, The Gators return senior Rachelle Smith and junior Julie Lester. The Gators defense only allowed 18 goals all year. Much of that was thanks to the talented defense, but GK Kaylan Marckese was phenomenal all year. Marckese finished her junior season with a 0.77 GAA.
Newcomers to watch:
Incoming freshman Cassidy Lindley is a name to watch. The Hoosier State native scored 56 goals in her high school career despite missing her entire junior year due to injury. Lindley could open the season as a starter in the midfield, or could be an early option off the bench for head coach Becky Burleigh.
Another name to watch for is Georgia Eaton-Collins. The 5’5 defender has been a part of the England Youth National Teams since 2015, but has chosen to further her career in the United States with UF.
As I mentioned briefly in the beginning, the Gators face a daunting schedule. Eleven opponents made the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Florida faces seven opponents who were ranked in the United Soccer Coaches preseason Top 25, including a home date against #2 UCLA at the end of August.
Florida enters 2018 with high expectations just like virtually every year. The Gators have been ranked in the Top 10 of the USC preseason poll for each of the last seven years. The Gators were also selected by conference coaches as the favorite to win the league, in the SEC Preseason Coaches Poll.
Florida returns three players that garnered All-SEC honors (Roberts, Rose, Smith) and has a dearth of experience in the lineup.
If the Gators can get offensive production, they have the talent and experience to dominate the SEC and make yet another trip to the NCAA Tournament.