Fall Sports

WSOC: Gators Lose Physical Match to Florida State

Photo by Brian Fox / ChompTalk.com

Walking into the home of the defending champions, the Gators were greeted to a pregame “Tomahawk Chop” chanted by a chorus of 3,100.

Riding an electric crowd, the No. 6 ranked Florida State Seminoles downed the Gators 2-1 in a physical contest in which the home team ended with ten women.

The Seminoles began the season ranked No. 1, but dropped five spots after losing both of their games in the “Battle of the Banc” to UCLA and USC last week, just like Florida did.

Summary

FSU set the tone early. In the 4th minute, last season’s TopDrawerSoccer Freshman of the year Yujie Zhao made a late run into the Gator box and rose for a header that sailed over the post.

The Seminoles controlled the opening half; they had six shots compared to Florida’s two. When in possession, the Seminoles would regularly launch long balls to the forwards from deep, especially center back Malia Berkely. It kept the Florida defenders busy but was not enough to break a deadlock of zeros going into the break.

The Gators best chance of the first half came in the 36th minute, when freshman Kouri Peace forced a turnover in the middle of the park that put her through on a breakaway. But, she could not generate a solid shot to challenge keeper Caroline Jeffers.

It is safe to say the action picked up in the second half.

In the 52nd minute, after a flurry of Florida crosses, the ball fell to senior midfielder Tess Sapone, who rocketed the ball off the half volley to beat Jeffers and put the Gators up 1-0.

The lead lasted for a whole five minutes. Zhao released a ball over the top looking for forward Kristen McFarland in the 57th minute. UF keeper Susi Espinoza claimed the ball, but in a lapse of concentration she put the ball back on the turf seemingly looking for an offside flag on McFarland. When it never came, McFarland pounced on the free ball and put it into the back of the net, knotting the game at one.

In the 70th minute, Florida State struck again. Midfielder Jaelin Howell neatly dribbled through the Gator defense and laid the ball across the six-yard box to a waiting Zhao, who blasted the ball into the net. Florida State leads 2-1.

The Gators were gifted a chance to equalize, when Jeffers was controversially sent off after tackling Laney Steed in the box in the 80th minute. To the confusion of pretty much everyone in attendance, the referee went to replay to confirm the decision to give Jeffers the red and award Florida the penalty.

Parker Roberts stepped up to take the spot kick, but it was saved by substitute keeper Brooke Bollinger to the delight of the crowd.

From there, the Seminoles dominated possession and saw out the game to hand Florida their third loss of the season.

FSU ended with fourteen shots, compared to Florida’s seven.

Outlook for Florida

The Gators now own a 2-3 record, and finally get to play their first home game Sunday against the University of Central Florida Knights.

Florida played four ranked teams in their first five games in what is one of the toughest schedules in college soccer. Top scorer Deanne Rose missed the last two matches, and the team will hope she can return to action for the UCF game.

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