After beating in-state opponents in their first two games, the Gators swapped coasts to take on California soccer heavyweights in a series of games that were dubbed the “Battle of the Banc.”
Florida lost to No. 4 UCLA by two goals to none on Sunday at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. The 20,000-seater usually hosts Major League Soccer side LAFC, but this weekend onlookers were greeted by some of NCAA soccer’s historically successful teams.
This Florida loss comes on the heels of a 3-1 loss to No. 5 USC on Thursday night, also at the Banc. This defeat brings the Gators record to 2-2.
The Gators began the game in their usual 4-3-3 formation. Unusually, though, Deanne Rose was not a part of it. Rose, the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week and Florida’s leading scorer this season, was injured near the end of the USC game on Thursday. She was seen icing her left hamstring as time expired.
Her Canadian national team teammate, Jessie Fleming, did start for UCLA and had the first chance of the game with a shot that went wide in the ninth minute. Both Rose and Fleming featured for Canada in the Women’s World Cup this past summer.
Solid chances were hard to come by in the first half. Perhaps the Gators best opportunity came in the 35’, when Kit Loferski, who started at winger, ran with the ball before releasing a shot to the near post that was saved by UCLA keeper Teagan Micah. Micah was also at the World Cup this summer, representing Australia.
Florida has been a second half team, scoring 5 of their 6 goals this season in the second 45. However, it was UCLA who struck when play resumed.
In the 48th minute, the referee awarded the Bruins a penalty after UF goalkeeper Susi Espinoza brought Fleming down in the box. Junior midfielder Marley Canales converted the spot kick, putting UCLA up 1-0.
Florida had their best chance of the game in the 54th minute, when Vanessa Kara’s shot was saved near post. She was in a good position but did not generate enough power to beat Micah.
UCLA doubled their lead when freshman forward Kali Trevithick found Delanie Sheehan in the box to score her first goal of the season and put the Bruins up 2-0.
Florida struggled for any meaningful chances in the final thirty minutes of the game. UCLA dominated tempo and possession to see out their fourth victory of the season and remain undefeated.
The Bruins ended with 13 shots (8 on target) to Florida’s 6 (3 on target). Despite conceding the penalty, Espinoza made some good saves to keep Florida in it, but the offense could not produce. Loferski led the team with two shots on goal.
Outlook for the Gators
Florida flies back to the sunshine state for a matchup with No. 1 Florida State, who also lost to UCLA over the weekend, on Friday in Tallahassee. It is a difficult end to the Gators five-game road trip to start the season.