GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The first weekend of Gator soccer’s 2021 season contains several opening notables:
- Tony Amato opens his Gator coaching career. Amato joined the Gators in May after spending the last eight seasons at Arizona. That stint included five NCAA appearances, including a trip to the 2015 Round of 16.
- Opens season on road versus a ranked opponent (Thursday at No. 20 South Florida) for the first time since 1997.
- Home action begins with first ever meeting between Florida and Texas. The Longhorns have competed in Gainesville in the 2003 NCAA Tournament but the two teams didn’t face each other.
Thursday, Aug. 19 at No. 20 South Florida
Time/Site: 7 p.m. at Corbett Stadium
Streaming Video: ESPN +
Radio: ESPN 98.1 FM / 850 AM with action called by Kyle Crooks and Matthew Stubbington
Tickets: $10 adults; $7 youth (age 4-12)
Sunday, Aug. 22 versus Texas
Time/Site: Noon at Donald R. Dizney Stadium
Streaming Video: SEC Network + with action called by Kyle Crooks and Matthew Stubbington
Radio: ESPN 98.1 FM / 850 AM with action called by Skyler Lebron and Juan Aguerrevere
Tickets: Free admission
Florida is 19-4-3 in season openers, including a 6-3-1 record when opening on the road.
Meet Coach Amato:
Tony Amato is the second coach in Florida’s 27-season history. Becky Burleigh, who started the Gator program in 1995, retired from collegiate coaching following the 2020-21 season.
Amato brings 18 years of collegiate head coaching experience to the Gator program, with the last eight seasons spent with the Arizona Wildcats. In his last 11 seasons coaching at the DI level, Amato led his teams to NCAA action six times, with the 2015 Arizona squad advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16.
More on Coach Amato by FloridaGators.com Senior Writer Chris Harry
The 2021 Gators:
The 31-member 2021 Florida team includes eight (seven freshman, one transfer) making their first appearance for the Gators.
Florida was 6-8-3 in the pandemic season that spanned both fall 2020 and spring 2021. Top returning points scorer from 2020-21 is graduate Madison Alexander, who is taking advantage of the pandemic extra year of eligibility to play a fifth season in 2021. Alexander was third among the Gators last season with 11 points off two goals and a team-high seven assists. Joining Alexander wearing the SEC Graduate patch this season is Kit Loferski, a 2019 All-SEC selection. Seven other Gators who scored goals last season return in 2021. Of Florida’s three goalkeepers, only sophomore Alexa Goldberg has seen collegiate action. She appeared in four matches last season with one start.
Olympic Gold :
A 2020 Olympic soccer gold medal is one thing Florida has in common with both of its opening weekend opponents. Two Gator grads were part of Canada’s gold medal team – Adriana Leon (2012) and Deanne Rose (2017-21). South Florida alumna Evelyne Viens (2016-19) and Texas senior Julia Grosso also were part of Canada’s Olympic gold team.
Last Time Gators-USF Met:
Florida and South Florida played to a scoreless tie when the two teams met at Dizney Stadium on Feb. 27, 2021. Opportunities to score were there for both teams. USF’s Sydney Nasello hit the crossbar in the 10th minute. Midway through the opening half, UF Susi Espinoza made a diving save on Meghan Cavanaugh’s shot. In the 57th minute, a header by senior Madison Alexander was high. Alexander had another opportunity less than a minute later, but her hard shot from the left wing was saved by USF’s Sydney Martinez. Both goalkeepers recorded three saves.
About this Week’s Gator Opponents:
South Florida played only in spring 2020, sweeping the American Athletic Conference regular-season (6-0-1) and tournament titles. The Bulls advanced to the NCAA Second Round, falling 2-0 to then No. 7 Texas A&M in their only loss of the season (10-1-2 record).
USF returns two from 2020-21 United Soccer Coaches All-America teams – forward Sydny Nasello (first team) and goalkeeper Sydney Martinez (second team). Nasello led USF with 17 points off six goals and five assists. Martinez played all but 17 minutes last season, posting a 0.45 goals against average (No. 13 in final NCAA 2020-21 rankings). Nasello is a 2021 TopDrawer Soccer Preseason Best XI second team selection.
Texas played its Big 12 schedule in fall 2020, placing sixth with a 4-5 record. The Longhorns played four additional matches in spring 2021 and finished with a 7-5 record.
Julia Grosso, who hit the final penalty kick to give Canada Olympic gold, led UT in 2020-21 with 14 points off five goals and four assists. Goalkeeper Savannah Madden played every minute of last season, posting a goals against average of 0.75. Grosso is a 2021 TopDrawer Soccer Preseason Best XI second team selection. Trinity Byars and Lexi Missimo both appear on TopDrawer Soccer’s Preseason Freshman Best XI list.