After defeating Miami 2-1 in their first spring game last week, the Gators continued their offseason tune-ups against Finnish top-tier side Tikkurilian Palloseura Thursday night in a chilly Gainesville.
In typical spring game fashion, it was a night of heavy rotation and experimentation for the Gators, but it did not end well. Florida was up 3-1 before conceding three unanswered goals in the final 30 minutes to lose by a final score of 4-3.
Here are three takeaways from the Gators inconsistent performance:
New Players On Defense Have Big Shoes To Fill
The departure of senior Julia Lester leaves a starting centerback role vacant.
Someone new will start alongside Georgia Eaton-Collins next year, and rising sophomores Syd Kennedy and Alexia Fotopoulos, and rising junior Taylor Baksay all tried to play the part Thursday night. None filled the role particularly well, as they misplaced passes and sometimes looked uncomfortable in possession when on the field en route to a late defensive collapse.
They’ve got plenty of time to grow, though, with four spring games remaining.
Speedy wingers were a crucial part to Becky Burleigh’s offense last year, and it looked the same on Thursday. Kit Loferski stood out especially, grabbing herself the first goal of the night.
Nicole Vernis, who did not appear once last year due to injury, played centrally and really impressed. She displayed clever control and assisted Cassidy Lindley for the second goal of the night.
The Gators often employed a 4-3-3 formation that transitioned to three at the back when in possession last year. Sammie Betters played right back and would move up and supplement the midfield when Florida had the ball.
With Betters’ departure, a new player must fill the unique and demanding role. Loferski and rising junior forward Samantha Tobar both tried Thursday night, and both looked pretty good. Although it is not certain who will play the position moving forward, it seems Burleigh wants to stick with it.