Thursday, October 24, 2002
The time is now for the University of Alabama women’s soccer team as they host the Florida Gators and South Carolina Gamecocks in the biggest soccer weekend in program history.
The Friday night match-up with the Gators will be televised live on FOX Sports Net while at halftime of the match, a ceremony will take place wherein a check for $100,000 will be presented to Alabama Head Coach Don Staley in the largest private gift ever given to a women’s sport in UA history.
Couple those two ingredients with the fact that the Tide is playing for its proverbial life in an attempt to get into this year’s SEC Tournament and Alabama has good reason to feel a bit of pressure heading into the weekend.
“We definitely feel more pressure than Florida in this situation because they know they’re in the tournament,” said Staley. “All week, we’ve been reminding the team that the only thing they have control over is how hard they work. We just ask that they give the same commitment they’ve given us all season.”
The Tide currently sits in the eighth and final spot for the SEC Tournament and is one of six teams that are separated by only a half game. A win for the Tide would almost certainly propel them into the tournament for the first time since 1998 while a loss would deal the Tide’s tournament hopes a blow with two games left in the conference season.
“The SEC Tournament is the prize, but nobody can take away what these girls have done this year,” said Staley. “However we need to just stay on the same path we’ve been on and let the chips fall where they may.”
The Alabama offense comes into the match the strongest it has ever been when entering a match with the Gators. The Tide offense ranks fifth in the country averaging 3.44 goals a match. Alabama is led by junior Dawn Nash and sophomore Katie French. Nash ranks third in the conference in points scored with 27 while French checks in at fifth in the SEC with 24 points. Freshman Cally Morrill has also been a key instrument in Alabama’s offensive resurgence as she ranks eighth in the conference with seven goals scored.
The Gators come into the match riding a three-game winning streak including two big overtime wins over East Division rivals Georgia and Tennessee last weekend. The two wins vaulted Florida to the top of the SEC East Division, a spot they are used to being in as they have won the last six SEC Tournament Championships and have made two visits to the NCAA Semifinals including winning the National Championship in 1998.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. as the match is televised live on FOX Sports Net. Immediately following the end of the first half, Vice President for University Advancement Jeff McNeil will present Staley with a check for $100,000 that was recently given by Alabama alum Allen Cox. Admission to the match is free and free hot dogs will be served prior to kickoff.