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Wednesday August 21, 2013 Rookie of the Year Tymrak headlines growing list of Gators in pros

Updated: 9:32pm, August 21

TymrakGAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida soccer season doesn’t open until Friday, but Gators are already making news in the sport.

An ex-Gator, that is.

Erika Tymrak, a four-year starter for Coach Becky Burleigh from 2009-2012, was named 2013 National Women’s Soccer League Rookie of the Year on Tuesday. A second-round pick by FC Kansas City, scored six goals and carded four assists during her first professional season.

“It’s been such an experience growing and developing with this group of girls,” Tymrak said Tuesday in KC. “The credit goes to my team.”

Her team, by the way, went 11-6-5 this season and faces the Portland Thorns in the NWSL semifinals this weekend, with an orange-and-blue game with the game set for that one.

Tymrak will be playing against former UF star Kat Williamson, who has started all 22 games for the Thorns. Those two make up a fourth of the former Gators -- five of the eight played on last year’s team -- that played in the NWSL during its fledgling season.

Eight in the pros (with one of them named Abby Wambach, by the way). That makes the person who helped send them there very proud.

“I think it says a lot about the style of play that we are playing and how that helps them make the transition from this level to be a professional,” Burleigh said before Wednesday’s practice, as her team prepared for Friday night’s season opening game against Florida Gulf Coast. “I think it also says a lot about their work ethic and their willingness to do what it takes to get to that next level. That’s a big jump and they handled it remarkably well.”

Tymrak, obviously, was groomed for her challenge. She was a two-time All-American and 2012 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year after leading UF in goals, assists and points. Over her four seasons, the Bradenton, Fla., product started 90 of her 95 games.

“I think it’s pretty excting for a Gator to get that kind of honor,” said Burleigh, who saw Tymrak play twice in person during the NWSL season. “She worked really hard and been really driven to be a pro. This is just a confirmation of all the hard work she’s done.”

Her coach confirmed as much.

“Erika steps onto the field knowing she can make a difference and impact the game,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “And usually she’s right. She’s one of the most creative players on the team.”

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