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Taylor Travis' hair took a pink tone for the 2011 Kicking for the Cure match. Tonight the Gators will wear pink.

Friday October 12, 2012Gators Kicking for the Cure tonight in key SEC contest against Missouri

Gainesville, Fla.

Taylor Travis' hair took a pink tone for the 2011 Kicking for the Cure match. Tonight the Gators will wear pink.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

If this weekend’s games hold true to form, the Florida soccer team inevitably will find itself in an uncomfortable situation. Maybe even trailing like it has in three games during a run of nine wins in 10 matches, including seven straight against Southeastern Conference opponents. 

Take last week at West Division leader and unbeaten in league play Texas A&M. 

The Gators fell behind on the road nearly 22 minutes in after forward Shea Groom, one of the top players in league, scored to ignite the home crowd on hand to cheer on Aggies, the nation’s fifth-ranked team and winners of 12 straight. 

It was right about that time, Taylor Travis started seeing the look

Not from one teammate, but from several. 

“We all have this thing,” said Travis, the UF junior defender. “We just look at each other, but it’s almost like a common look. The same for everybody. It’s a look that says we just know nothing is going to touch us if we play our game. It’s more than a look of confidence.” 

She nodded. 

“It’s a look of belief.” 

Seven minutes later, senior midfielder Jo Dragotta scored off a free kick and 10 minutes later it was junior transfer Adriana Leon giving the Gators the lead with what turned out to be the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory that served as one of the biggest of the 2012 season. 

“Like I said, there’s a belief in this team that we’re going to get it done,” Travis said. “We don’t stress, we survive.” 

Which makes for the perfect segue for Friday night when the 12th-ranked Gators (10-3-1, 7-1) will face SEC newbie and 14th-ranked Missouri (12-2, 7-1) at Pressly Stadium, with the winner taking sole possession of first place in the SEC. 

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the home team will forgo the orange-and-blue color scheme for a night and play in pink uniforms as a salute to the true survivors out there. 

UF coach Becky Burleigh’s mother is one of them. She’s survived the disease in three forms, including breast cancer. 

“There are so many players on our team that in some way have been affected, be it with a family member or close friend,” Burleigh said. “To bring awareness to it, I think it’s a really neat concept to see, especially with all the sports doing it. ... It’s not just to wear pink. It has a deeper meaning.” 

That brings us back to Travis. 

Last year, the Gators playedAuburn in the “Kicking for the Cure” match and Travis showed up with her hair dyed the color of the day in honor of her grandmother, also afflicted with breast cancer. 

“I think we all take a lot of pride in that,” she said. 

Travis, meanwhile, takes a lot of pride in her defense. Though Groom scored the Aggies’ lone goal last week, Burleigh praised Travis for the way she marked the A&M star for the better part of the match. 

Like her defensive assignments every time out, Travis took that one personally, too. 

“Taylor gets really motivated when she plays against someone who is just as fast as she is -- and that doesn’t happen very often because she’s so quick,” Burleigh said of the 5-foot-3 fireplug from Raleigh, N.C. “Taylor was up for the game and did a good job of shutting [Groom] down, which is not easy to do.” 

UF plays a game within its game to emphasize defensive aggression. 

It’s called the “10-second rule.” 

When the player a Gator is assigned to mark enters the box, the UF defender is expected to blanket that player for 10 hard, guard-like-glue seconds. 

“You stay with your mark for 10 seconds, period. No excuses,” Travis explained. “They don’t get the ball, period, no matter what. They stay in your sights, stay marked and after 10 seconds the play will be done.” 

It’s a concept Florida has embraced and its success has helped the Gators bounce back from a 2-2-1 start -- albeit against a very difficult early season schedule -- to enter their final weekend home stand with a chance to take command of the East and overall SEC. 

But it doesn’t stop with the pink game. 

The Gators will face Mississippi State on Sunday for their annual Senior Day send-off. UF will say goodbye to a class of five – McKenzie Barney, Dragotta, Holly King, Erika Tymrak and Kathryn Williamson –all who played sizable roles for the Gators during their careers.

“This weekend is going to be really good,” Travis said. “It’s going to be emotional and that emotion is just going to pour out of us with how important those seniors have all been for us.”

If that emotional wave isn’t enough, look for the look

 

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