HomeSportsUF Soccer: Gators Battle Florida State To A 0-0 Draw in Exhibition
UF Soccer: Gators Battle Florida State To A 0-0 Draw in Exhibition
March 6, 2021
Courtesy of University Athletic Association
BY ELI ROSEN
It’s never uncommon to see tensions rise whenever the Florida Gators take on the Florida State Seminoles in any competition.
But today’s exhibition soccer match started off on a lighter note with a bouquet of flowers being gifted to Florida head coach Becky Burleigh from the Florida State team.
The flowers are a sign of appreciation for Burleigh’s coaching tenure that spans all the way back to 1995, the inaugural season of the Florida Gator soccer program.
The Gators beat the Seminoles 4-0 in their first meeting in ’95, the debut match for both programs.
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Saturday’s play: It was a different tale on Saturday afternoon as the two in-state rivals battled to the very finish of 0-0 exhibition draw which featured strong defensive play throughout.
Under the exhibition format of today’s match, Florida and Florida State played three 30-minute periods. The match did not count toward either team’s regular season record.
But that didn’t stop the two in-state rivals from playing a hard-fought contest.
Florida State started the first period with a focus on ball control, which Florida used in turn to limit the Seminoles to just four shots in the first period of play.
It was Suzi Espinoza who saved half of those shots, with two saves in the first period.
Her first came when a shot from FSU’s Emily Madril sent a curling ball across the net, which forced Espinoza to her right, pushing the ball to safety.
Later in the second period, Espinoza tacked on another save when a low, strong shot from FSU was batted away from the extended hand of Espinoza, trickling the ball past the left post. That save kept the match scoreless.
Pace and physicality of play picked up in the second period, with Florida making multiple advances into the defensive half of FSU.
While Florida didn’t get a shot on the board until the third period, it was in the second period where the FSU defense started to feel the pressure of a Gator offensive attack.
A Parker Roberts shot in the final period was close to being the goal the Gators needed, but the ball elevated just over the crossbar.
Despite 15 shots from the FSU offense, the Gator defense and Espinoza held strong throughout the day, earning a second consecutive shutout.
* After recording her first clean sheet of the season last Saturday against USF, Susi Espinoza registered another shutout with three saves on the day.
National Rankings: Florida State is currently the No. 1 team in the country by the United Soccer Coaches poll.
Records (Exhibition: did not count toward record): Florida: (3-7-2, 1-6-1 SEC) FSU: (11-0) All-Time Series Record: Florida and Florida State are tied 13-13
What Becky Burleigh Said: Another match with a clean sheet, how do you feel about the defense so far? “We are really making progress. Especially tonight because we played a lot of people and that was some really good experience for some people against clearly a very top team.”
At the beginning of the second period, the Seminoles switched to a 4-3-3. How did that impact the Gators? “With how we are trying to defend right now with the two banks of four, the system is really irrelevant to us in some ways. It takes more communication for us to deal with any system switches… but we’ve seen a little bit of everything in the three spring matches. It is good for us to see a variety because it will prepare us.”
What was the thought process on the switches made after the opening period? “We’ve never played an exhibition match in the middle of our season before, so there’s not a precedent on how to handle that. We thought it would be a good opportunity to try some things, look at some different people and get some experience in a game that we knew we were going to face a quality opponent.”
Gator performance against nation’s top team? “I feel really good about where we’ve come defensively. That was our main focus coming out of the fall going into the spring was how can we get better defensively? To be able to shutout a team of that quality is a good step for us. We’ve got to do a lot of work offensively to get our offense to catch up where we are defensively but we knew this was the quickest way to change our results.”
Next Up: The Gators will play host to Georgia Southern next Thursday for UF’s 2020-21 home finale. The match will also commemorate Head Coach Becky Burleigh and Associate Head Coaches Vic Campbell and Alan Kirkup’s last home match coaching the Gators at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Georgia Southern vs. Florida When: 6 p.m. ET / March 11 Site: Donald R. Dizney Stadium Video: SEC Network + Free admission but capped at 368 to ensure physical distancing