Photo by Kristen Oliff /

The Gators undefeated start to SEC play ended on Thursday in a tough loss at Ole Miss.

Back home on Sunday, Florida (9-5) bounced back with a comfortable 4-2 victory against Kentucky (5-8-2). Freshmen filled the score sheet as the Gators put down a struggling Wildcats team.


First Half

Kentucky came to Gainesville having lost their last seven matches. It looked like the Wildcats were going to turn things around, though, when they got on the board first. In the 16th minute, the ball fell to junior forward Julia Grosso from a corner, and she blasted it into the back of the net with a superb volley. The Wildcats took a uprising lead, 1-0.

But, just ten minutes later, freshman Laney Steed equalized with a volley of her own. Vanessa Kara, who is usually finding the back of the net herself, headed the ball to a waiting Steed at the top of the box. Without hesitation, she released a volley that sailed over the Kentucky keeper to even the game.

The young guns of Florida fired again in the 39th minute, when the ball fell to Ava Kuyken at the top of the box. She took a dribble and turned before producing a curling effort that beat the keeper and put the Gators up 2-1. These were the first goals of the season for Steed and Kuyken, who have been seeing a lot of minutes despite being freshmen.

The Gators went into the half with a five to two shot advantage over their opponents.

Second Half

They picked up where they left off in the 50th minute, when forward Kouri Peace found the back of the net after Deanne Rose put her through on goal. After the game, Peace said when her fellow freshmen get on the board, it affects everyone on the team positively. “Having them score gives everyone the confidence they can score too.”

The Gators continued to threaten and hit the post twice before eventually picking up their fourth goal. Parker Roberts placed a free kick from about 22 yards out past an outstretched Kentucky keeper in the 63rd minute.

The Wildcats attempted to claw themselves back into the game in the 70th minute when they were awarded a penalty. Forward Jordyn Rhodes converted the spot kick for her fifth goal of the season.

It would not be enough, though, as the visitors were thoroughly outplayed on the day. The Gators finished the game with a 16-6 shot advantage.

Gator Outlook

The team was rotated heavily throughout the game on Sunday, with some other younger players like Madeline Gravante and Alivia Gonzalez receiving play time. Factor in Steed, Kuyken and Peace, and it is safe to say the Gators have a promising young core.

“We all trust each other… we can rely on everyone,” Steed said post-game, speaking about how it is nice to have so many capable players on the Florida squad. She believes the team does not have to rely heavily on any one player.

Florida has five days before hosting an inconsistent Auburn (6-5-2) team on Friday night. The Gators are 5-1 in conference play and trail only South Carolina in the SEC East standings

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