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Monday November 5, 2012 Gators get their message across at SEC Tournament

Gators soccer team

Photo: The Florida soccer team won the SEC Tournament on Sunday, the 10th title in program history.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida soccer team returned home in the wee hours of Monday morning from its successful stay in Orange Beach, Ala.

Already the regular-season SEC champions, the Gators added the SEC Tournament title to their résumé with Sunday's 3-0 win over Auburn.

Gators coach Becky Burleigh doesn't have any plans to gather the team to watch this afternoon's NCAA Selection Show at 4:30. Still, you know they'll be watching.

Florida is expected to host a first-round game on Friday. The Gators have won 14 of their last 15 games and outscored Ole Miss, Missouri and Auburn 8-1 in three wins in Orange Beach.

"I felt like the last two games we really started playing some of our best soccer,'' Burleigh said Monday. "That's what we want to be doing at this time of year."

Florida is a long way from its inauspicious start, a 4-1 home loss to Miami on Aug. 17. The Gators followed that up with a 0-0 tie at North Carolina, a 3-2 overtime win at Duke, and a loss at Florida State.

Burleigh didn't push the panic button after the loss to the Hurricanes on opening night.

"I knew after the Miami game that we weren't that bad,'' Burleigh said. "That was pretty bad. It made us pick up our focus on details. Ultimately, that game was a big wake-up call for us."

The Gators have also had to overcome a slew of injuries. Several key players had missed significant time. Senior midfielder Jo Dragotta is the latest Gator to go down. Dragotta suffered a possible concussion on Sunday and will be monitored throughout the week.

Whether Dragotta can play or not, Burleigh won't sweat it.

"For us, it was such a team effort this year,'' Dragotta said. "We have had some key injuries during key stretches."

The SEC Tournament title was the 10th for the Gators. Burleigh has been around for them all, the first coming in 1996.

After a disappointing finish in 2011, the Gators traveled to Alabama on a mission last week.

"Our team has been really focused this year on making a statement about that,'' Burleigh said of claiming both the regular-season title and conference tournament. "Winning the regular-season is always a big goal. They weren't satisfied with that. They wanted to make a big statement going into the [NCAA] Tournament."

They did it rather loudly.

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