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Christen Westphal (No. 20) celebrates with the Gators after assisting on Florida's second goal in Sunday's 2-0 win.

Sunday October 27, 2013Emphasis on Team Defense Key in Win Streak as Gator Soccer Now Share SEC Lead with 2-0 Win vs Texas A&M

Gainesville, Fla.

Christen Westphal (No. 20) celebrates with the Gators after assisting on Florida's second goal in Sunday's 2-0 win.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Freshman forward Savannah Jordan has scored six goals during a winning streak the seventh-ranked Gators stretched to six matches Sunday with a 2-0 home defeat of Texas A&M. 

 

2013 SEC Standings (as of Oct. 27, 2013)

TEAM

SEC

Pts.

OVERALL

Florida

8-2

24

14-3-1

Texas A&M

8-2

24

13-4-1

South Carolina

7-2-1

22

14-2-2

Kentucky

7-3

21

13-4-1

Mississippi

6-3-1

19

13-4-2

LSU

5-4-1

16

9-7-2

Georgia

5-4-1

16

12-5-1

Missouri

4-3-3

15

8-7-3

Arkansas

4-6

12

11-7

Alabama

4-6

12

6-11

Tennessee

2-5-3

9

7-7-4

Auburn

2-5-3

9

6-8-4

Vanderbilt

1-8-1

4

4-11-3

Mississippi State

0-10

0

3-14

 

 

 

 

Teams receive 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie.

Jordan’s total is six more than UF’s opponents have scored during the run of a half-dozen victories, and nearly four weeks without giving up a goal. 

 

Think about that. 

 

“It has been a long time,” Florida coach Becky Burleigh said. 

 

Since losing 2-1 in double-overtime against South Carolina on Oct. 4, the Gators have played the last 559 minutes without surrendering a goal, outscoring Auburn, Mississippi State, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee and A&M by an aggregate score of 15-zip, with the latest conquest pulling UF (14-3-1, 8-2) into a dead heat atop the Southeastern Conference standings. 

 

Not only did the Aggies (13-4-1, 8-2) start the day a game up on the Gators in the league race, but riding an eight-game streak during which they’d outscored opponents 26-8. 

 

But the combination of Florida’s defense, ranked second in the SEC (at 0.57 goals-against-average) and Jordan, the runaway rookie freight train who scored a pair of second-half goals, knotted things into a dead-heat for the conference’s regular-season crown with one regular-season match to go. 

 

“You can’t win games without scoring goals,” Jordan said. 

 

Yeah, but the Gators take matters a step further. They’re winning games because the players who score goals also defend. 

 

When you play for Burleigh, you’ve got to do both. Non-negotiable. 

 

“It’s a team thing, starting with our forwards defending,” she said. 

 

That means Jordan, whose two goals Sunday gave her 18 for the season; the most by a UF player since Abby Wambach punched in 31 as a senior in 2001. 

 

But Jordan, playing at the top of UF’s 4-2-3-1 alignment, gets no pass when it comes to defending, knows it and has no problem sticking her head in a scrum. Same with the second line, which was terrific Sunday in the midfield, combining with the backline in shutting out an Aggies offense that came in with a league-high 45 goals. 

 

The game’s defining play came midway through the second half when UF sophomore center back Christen Westphal and outside back Tessa Andujar smothered Aggies forward Bianca Brinson on the wing. Westphal tapped the ball free and found herself with no A&M player within 10 yards of her. 

 

“I saw a lot of free space and just went for it,” Westphal said. 

 

Up the sideline Westphal went, free for about 50 yards and five touches worth, before knocking a perfect feed onto Jordan’s left foot. Jordan hammered the pass home for her second goal in a nine-minute span of the second half. 

 

The way the Gators are playing defense right now, the Aggies would have needed some crazy things to happen to erase a 2-0 lead. 

 

“I guess we just know how to play with each other. We know how to read each other,” Westphal said. “I don’t want to say it’s easy ... but it’s pretty fluid.” 

 

Added Andujar: “We’re really emphasizing communication right now.” 

 

And trust. 

 

In fact, that very word -- TRUST -- was scribbled in red ink on Andujar’s wrist. Back in August during preseason camp, each Florida player had to pick a word to describe what the team needed to perform, to bond, to succeed. 

 

Andujar brings her word with her every game. 

 

“I like having it with me,” she said. 

 

The Gators, no doubt, like having an aggressive, cohesive defense with the calendar about to flip from October to November; and the regular to the postseason. 

 

 

 

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