Florida Gators soccer opens SEC play on Thursday night

Special report on the Florida Gators soccer team:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gator athletics starts back up after Hurricane Irma with Florida soccer’s Southeastern Conference opener.

For the third straight season, the first match of the SEC slate includes Florida. The Gators play host to No. 24 Mississippi on Thursday, Sept. 14 to kick off SEC Network league soccer coverage.

Match time is 7 p.m. Thursday at the James G. Pressly Stadium<http://floridagators.com/facilities/?id=4>. Admission is free for all Gator soccer regular-season matches.

This is the third time of the last five meetings between UF and UM both bring a top-25 ranking into the match. Five of the last 16 meetings have gone to overtime, with the last coming in 2009 (3-2 2OT UM home win). A single goal decided seven of the last 13 meetings between the two programs.

Here’s how to follow the Gators
The match starts seven consecutive Thursday evening appearances of league soccer on the SEC Network. Calling Thursday’s action for the SEC Network is Gator Great Heather Mitts and Jenn Hildreth.

Listen to Kyle Crooks and Matthew Stubbington’s call of the match at ESPN 98.1 FM / 850 AM or on GatorVision.com<http://floridagators.com/watch/?Live=801>.

Match Promotions
The first 250 fans receive Gator rally sticks!

It’s $1 Thursday! Visit the concession stand to pick up a 12 ounce drink and a large popcorn for just $1 each.

Youth are invited to come to field post-match to hear from the Gators as part of Florida’s Watch the Player, Meet the Person season-long initiative.

UF SAAC Hurricane Relief Efforts:
Hurricane Irma swept through our state early this week, but some Sunshine State families are still working to return to normal life.

Because they want to help, the University of Florida Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is holding a drive to collect items for those displaced by Hurricane Irma.

To help support this drive, please bring some items to Thursday’s match to share. Collection points will be at the Pressly Stadium entrance.

Needed items:

Cleaning Supplies

Socks

Baby wipes & diapers

Blankets

Ziploc bags

Toiletries

Clothing

Non-perishable food items

Gators Take to Field Again
Hurricane Irma, the strongest storm ever measured in the open Atlantic Ocean<https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/09/hurricane-irma-closes-in-on-miami/539217/>, hit a wide swath of Florida. The anticipated impact of the largest hurricane on the state caused cancellation of two home soccer matches – vs. No. 13 Florida State (Sept. 8 – rescheduled for Oct. 12) and South Florida (Sept. 10). Other Gator events impacted by the storm were the Sept. 9 Northern Colorado football game, the Sept. 8-9 Active Ankle volleyball tournament and the Sept. 12 No. 20 Florida State volleyball match (rescheduled for Sept. 19). Thursday’s match with Mississippi is the first Gator athletic event since Hurricane Irma hit the state Sunday and Monday.

Last Meeting
When the two teams met last year in Oxford, Florida took a 3-0 win<http://floridagators.com/news/2016/10/9/soccer-gators-win-3-0-at-mississippi-sunday.aspx?path=soccer> off goals from a pair of then seniors -Savannah Jordan (2) and Pamela Begič. It was Jordan’s second double-goal match of the weekend, fourth of the season and the 21st multi-goal match of her collegiate career.

About the Rebels:
Mississippi is among the nation’s 10 unbeaten teams (which includes three SEC teams).

In Sunday’s match between two of the nation’s then unbeaten teams, the Rebels took a 1-0 win at Memphis. It was the Rebels fifth consecutive shutout.

Marnie Merritt’s goals-against-average of 0.142 stands fourth in NCAA Division I. Two Rebels are among the nation’s goals leaders. Freshman Channing Foster (9) shares the nation’s lead with nine goals and junior CeCe Kizer (8) is tied for third.

Matthew Mott, the second coach in the program’s history, is in his eighth year leading the Rebels.

Records:
Florida: 5-1-0, 0-0 SEC
Mississippi: 7-0-1, 0-0 SEC

Preseason Conference Votes:
Florida tied for third in the 2016 SEC regular-season standings and won the SEC Tournament title. Mississippi was ninth in the 2016 SEC standings.

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.