The Florida Gators began their 25th season of women’s soccer in south Florida against last season’s Conference-USA title holders, the Florida Atlantic University Owls.
The Gators were looking to bounce back from a poor last season that was marred by injuries. Florida finished 7-10-4 in the SEC, good enough for eighth, which was their lowest finish since 2000.
Despite being the only non-ranked opponent UF faces in their first five games, the Owls are not pushovers. The last two times these teams met in Boca Raton, the Gators could not claim victory until overtime, winning 1-0 in 2017 and 2-1 in 2008.
The Owls again pushed the Gators passed ninety minutes in what was a tough test for both teams.
FAU began the game defending aggressively and pinned the Gators to their own side of the field for much of the first fifteen minutes of the game. The Owls were winning the ball high up the pitch often and looking for senior forward Elisha Holmes up top.
The Owls pressure finally paid when in the 18th minute senior Pernille Velta got on the end of a knocked down ball in the Gator half, dribbled past the UF defense, and slotted a low shot into the back of the net past Susi Espinoza.
The Gators slowly played themselves into the game as the half went on but could not get on the score sheet. Deanne Rose had Florida’s best chance of the first half when she was put through on the left side of the field and forced a save from the FAU keeper.
At the half the University of Florida had three shots to FAU’s four, while both teams had two on target.
Both teams were greeted with a hefty helping of rain and lightning just minutes into the second half, which caused about a forty-five minute weather delay. After play resumed, UF looked the better team. The Gators had more chances and converted on one when Deanne Rose successfully found the back of the net in the 55th minute.
Sophomore Cassidy Lindley broke the deadlock with a laser of a long shot in the 74th minute from about 35 yards out, putting Florida up 1-2.
The Gators tried to see the game out by maintaining possession, but just two minutes from full time FAU senior midfielder Mary O’Hara leveled the game at two with a leaping header into the bottom right corner of the net, assisted by Tiril Haga.
The teams headed to overtime knotted at two goals apiece. The rain soaked onlookers did not have to wait long for the already-extended game to end, as Rose tapped in a cross from Lindley in the 95th minute to give the Gators a winning golden goal.
UF finished the game with eleven shots, seven on target, while FAU had ten with six on target. Both teams had four saves, seven corners, and two offsides calls.