New year, new Review.
Gators soccer takes down FSU to finish sweep week
In 2014, the only team to beat Florida State en route to the Seminoles' first national title in soccer was Florida.
In 2015, the defending national champions' first loss came to the same team.
Florida's 3-2 win over FSU on Sunday in front of the home fans at James G. Pressley Stadium was both the Gators' first-ever home win against the nation's No. 1 team (and their first over a No. 1 team anywhere since claiming the 1998 national title with a win over dynastic North Carolina) and a substantial statement to the sport that Florida might be a contender in 2015.
The Gators dominated the Seminoles, who returned enough of the core that claimed that title to be most publications' preseason No. 1 team, for the entirety of the first half and much of the game, rolling up a 3-0 advantage before halftime on goals by Savannah Jordan (on a slick cross-box finish) and Sarah Troccoli (on a header from a corner) in the run of play and a penalty kick coolly put away by Pamela Begic. The three goals were the most allowed in a single game by FSU keeper Cassie Miller, who set an NCAA record with 19 clean sheets in 2014; five of the 12 goals Miller has allowed in her career have been scored by the Gators. It could have been worse, too, with Jordan doinking a PK of her own off the crossbar and a couple of chances turning fruitless in the first 45 minutes.
Florida continued to control the game until late in the second half, too — but FSU rallied to throw a scare into the homestanding Gators, getting two goals (the latter a superb finish) off of defensive errors in the 75th and 80th minutes. The Gators, though, would finish the match victorious — and 2-0 against the reigning queens of the sport in the last 12 months.
The victory topped off a successful rebound from a shakier first week of play, in which Florida beat ranked UCF in Orlando, then fell to unranked Ohio State in Columbus. On Thursday, Florida played another rollicking game against an in-state rival, taking a 4-2 decision over Miami in which Jordan pulled off the second hat trick of her decorated collegiate career and all six goals were scored in the second half, with five coming in less than 10 minutes of game clock.
For their efforts, Jordan and Troccoli were honored as the SEC Offensive Player of the Week and the SEC Freshman of the Week — and Florida is almost certain to vault back into the top 10 of this week's rankings after tumbling from No. 8 to No. 14 after their first weekend of play.
Comeback, closeout mark Florida volleyball's perfect first weekend
Early in the second set of their season-opening match against James Madison on Friday, the No. 4 Florida volleyball team trailed the Dukes 11-0.
On Sunday, Florida lost its first set to American, then trailed the Eagles 23-18 in the fourth set.
The Gators won that set, and that match, too — and without even going beyond 25.
Such is the power of this year's Gators squad, which got a school-record 14 block assists from newly-crowned SEC Defensive Player of the Week in disposing of the Dukes (25-16, 32-30, 25-18), and held the Eagles (24-26, 25-20, 25-15, 25-23) to a .239 hitting percentage after allowing a .351 clip in the first set.
The towering Alhassan (6'4" with significant athleticism) anchors what could be an impregnable front line, and Florida is poised to make a legitimate run at the national championship that has eluded the program despite its tremendous success under Mary Wise. The Gators' 900th victory, earned Sunday, is just the latest laurel for the nation's winningest program since 1991 — the year of Wise's arrival — and pushes the Gators incrementally closer to an unfathomable 90 percent win rate under Wise. (It'll take wins in their next 48 matches to get all the way there, but, hey, a boy can dream.)
For the near term, though, Florida getting its feet wet and chalking up road wins in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area is fine preparation for a schedule that won't bring the Gators home for an opener in the O'Connell Center until September 17. And next weekend's test, matches against ranked Oregon and Texas in Austin, will be tough.