After losing their last three games, a matchup against a winless UCF squad in the Gators first home contest of the year seemed like a perfect opportunity to bounce back.
The Knights had other ideas.
Despite dominating possession on the night, the Gators failed to pierce the visitors’ armor, losing 2 goals to zero in front of a crowd of over 800.
🐊⚽️ starters for tonight's home opener:
— Gators Soccer (@GatorsSoccer) September 8, 2019
The Knights came into this game on seven days’ rest, and their fresh legs were apparent early as they pressed Florida high up the field.
In the third minute, UCF pounced on a Gator turnover. The ball found its way to freshman forward Ally Gudorf, who powered the ball into the back of the net after some shaky Florida defending to put the Knights up 1-0.
After their early strike, Central Florida was content sitting back and absorbing Gator pressure. That was their only shot of the first half.
Freshman Ava Kuyken and Canadian international Deanne Rose, who was subbed on after missing the last two games with injury, were the bright spots in a Gator team that struggled to register any solid chances of their own.
Kuyken attempted a shot from the top of the box in the 10th minute that sailed over the crossbar, and Rose struck the bar twenty minutes later with a long shot of her own.
The Gators failed to threaten UCF keeper Caroline DeLisle at all in the first 45. The team ended it with four shots, none of which were on target.
Florida’s best chance of the game came early in the second half. In the 52nd minute, midfielder Cassidy Lindley curled a shot from the left side of the box that forced DeLisle into action. Her diving save pushed the ball to the feet of Kouri Peace in the box, but she could not put the rebound on target.
Either offense failed to produce much excitement after that until the 85th minute. UCF forward Zandy Soree put through fellow forward Kristen Scott into a 1 v 1 with Florida keeper Susi Espinoza. Scott proved the victor, slotting a low shot into the net that doubled the Knights’ lead.
As the sun set, so did the Gators chance of salvaging a result. They could not conjure up a late attacking surge and nearly conceded a third time when Central Florida’s Dayana Martin hit the post in the 87th minute.
Florida ended the match with seven shots compared to UCF’s five. After the game, head coach Becky Burleigh stressed her team’s mental errors as a point of emphasis that must be improved next game.
“I thought it was a slow start. I mean, you can’t give up a goal in the first few minutes and that type of mental error – that’s tough,” said Burleigh.
Outlook for the Gators
Florida now sports a 2-4 record. The team continues its homestand Thursday night when Florida Gulf Coast University comes to Gainesville.
Rose, the team’s top scorer, will likely have a more prominent role in that match as she continues recovering from the injury she suffered in California.