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Published 08/21/2014
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Soccer Opens Season Friday in Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes will open their regular season on the road this weekend with a Friday night showdown against eighth-ranked Florida and a Sunday afternoon matchup at No. 23 UCF.

Two seasons ago, the Hurricanes found themselves in a similar situation. Facing a ranked Gators squad in the 2012 opener for both teams, the Hurricanes traveled north and recorded a resounding 4-1 victory in front of a packed house at Pressly Stadium.

And though Friday’s installment in the rivalry will be the first for second-year head coach Mary-Frances Monroe, her Hurricanes are looking for similar early-season momentum in what she expects to be a difficult environment.

 “I think we’re all really excited,” Monroe said. “We’ve spent the last two weeks competing against each other, and I think the team is ready to finally play regular season matches against our challenging schedule.”

In addition to an ever-challenging ACC slate, Miami has an eight-match nonconference schedule that includes four NCAA tournament teams from a season ago – with both the Gators and Knights included in that group.

The Hurricanes finished their nonconference schedule with a perfect 5-0 record in Monroe’s first season at the helm last fall.

“I’m a big believer in, ‘if you want to be the best, you have to play the best,’” Monroe said. “Why not open up with Florida? I think it’s going to be a great challenge, a great test, and we’ll see what we need to improve on and what we’ve done well in preseason training.”

Miami concluded a successful preseason with a comprehensive 3-0 shutout of UNF on the road last Friday. The Hurricanes also knocked off USF 2-1 at Cobb Stadium earlier in August.

“It was great to have a home game and away game, so our younger players can understand the travel and get into the routine of that,” Monroe said. “I think we saw some really good soccer, and we saw some things we needed to improve on.”

Some of those youngsters impressed in the exhibitions, including a two-goal performance from freshman forward Grace Rapp in the win over the Ospreys. But a bigger challenge may fall on Miami’s backline – including captains Shannon McCarthy and Maddie Simms - that will need to hold strong to contain 2013 Soccer America Freshman of the Year Savannah Jordan.

“I think we saw some really good soccer, and we saw some things we needed to improve on,” Monroe said of the two exhibitions. “That’s what we spent the last week working on – keeping our shape, putting people in different positions, seeing what’s going to work. Now we’re excited to get out there and compete.”

Kickoff for Friday’s opener is set for 7 p.m. on SECNetwork+  - available through the WatchESPN app (must be a subscriber to the SEC Network to view SECNetwork+). A free stream of Sunday’s game against UCF (1 p.m.) will be available through Knights All-Access.