Hannah Saad | @hannah_Saad21
Alabama soccer is looking for one thing on Sunday afternoon: redemption. After a heart breaking tie against Mississippi State, the Crimson Tide is heading to the University of Florida to try and wash away the memory of the tie.
Sunday afternoon’s contest in Gainesville will feature two teams looking to get back in the win column, Alabama (1-0-1) and Florida (0-0-1). Both No. 15 Alabama, according to the United Soccer Coaches Poll, and Florida both collected a 1-1 tie in double overtime; Alabama’s against Mississippi State and Florida’s against No. 8 Georgia.
The last time Alabama and Florida competed against each other was in 2018, which resulted in a scoreless tie. However, in three previous Alabama-Florida matches dating back to the 2013 season, Florida won every time. In this seven-year span, the Gators have outscored the Alabama squad 14-1.
Florida looks to be the more battle-tested team between the two, as its only game was against the No. 8 ranked team in the country.
However, the positives for Alabama heading into Gainesville is that the team has played an extra game, which was chock-full of experiences to learn from, and has already competed on the road.
Heading into the season, Florida was picked to finish fifth in the conference according to the preseason coaches poll, which is one spot higher than Alabama’s predicted finish. Florida had three players selected to the conference’s preseason watch list—redshirt junior forward Kit Loferski, redshirt senior midfielder Parker Roberts and senior forward Deanne Rose. Rose scored the Gators lone goal in the teams tie against Georgia.
Roberts and Rose are the one-two punch of the Florida offense. Roberts started all 21 games for Florida last season scoring five goals and played 1797, which is the second most of the returning position players on the roster. Despite Rose only playing 717 minutes last season compared to Roberts’ 1797 minutes, she was still a huge piece of the Gators offense as she put six balls to the back of the net.
The Alabama defense must put up a solid front against Florida’s Rose and Roberts if it wants to give itself a chance to leave Gainsville with a win. However, the Crimson Tide defense is already at a disadvantage as freshman Tanna Sanchez-Carreto is unable to compete in the match due to drawing two yellow cards last week. Sanchez-Carreto had started both games of the season, playing 34 minutes against Tennessee in the opener and almost every minute against Mississippi State until the point of her ejection. Coach Wes Hart has a big decision to make on who fills the shoes of Sanchez-Carreto on Sunday.
Alabama will be going against one of the most experienced goalies in the conference, redshirt senior Susi Espinosa. Espinosa played 1915 minutes last season, translating to more than 90% of the minutes for Florida’s season.
The key to the Alabama offense is to draw corner kicks early and often. The Alabama offense has a slow first half in the game against Mississippi State due to its inability to draw a corner kick. In the second half, the Alabama offense drew four corner kicks and put several shots on goal, but were just unable to score.
Alabama and Florida will kick off on Sunday at 4 p.m., televised on the SEC Network.