The Florida Gators are known for being an ’everything’ school. Smarts. Sports. You name it. From baseball and softball to basketball and football, and even volleyball and track, UF’s wide range of teams are ranked more often than not. Up until this year, that included women’s soccer, but that has not been the case in 2018.
UF’s soccer team is 7-9-4 this season and 4-4-2 in Southeastern Conference play. That is, by far, the worst record in team history, which is hard to fathom for a program now in its 24th season under head coach Becky Burleigh. Florida has won at least 16 games every year since 2007. Its worst season before 2018 came in 2002, when it went 10-10-2 and 5-3-1 in conference play.
Part of UF’s woes can be blamed on absences early in the season. For example, 2017 leading scorer Deanne Rose only recently returned from a stint with the Canadian National Team gearing up for the 2019 World Cup. That certainly isn’t an excuse because all teams have dealt with similar situations, but it at least provides context.
Now, that’s not to say the current team can’t turn it around. The Gators have won their first two games in the SEC Tournament, including a monster 1-0 upset win over top-seeded Vanderbilt Tuesday night. Not bad for a team that didn’t win a single game over a monthlong period at one point this season. Even more impressive was that they beat the Commodores without senior Sarah Troccoli, who received a red card in the second half of Florida’s prior match. UF now faces Arkansas in the semifinal Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Florida likely won’t be selected to the NCAA Tournament this year, and it would be odd not to see the Gators in the 64-team bracket. UF has appeared in the tournament 21 of its 23 seasons.
Don’t expect Burleigh to allow this trend to continue, though. Florida was instantly successful from its first season in 1995 and even won an NCAA Championship just four years later in 1998 back when Abby Wambach was a freshman and helped lead her team to a 26-1 record.
Florida hasn’t found that playoff magic — appearing in an NCAA title match — since Wambach’s senior year in 2001, and it doesn’t look like that will change this year.