Photo by Brian Fox | ChompTalk

One hundred and ten minutes of play was not enough time for the Florida Gators and Vanderbilt Commodores to declare a winner, yet again this season.

The match, tied 1-1, would head to penalties, where Florida defeated Vanderbilt 4-3 to advance to the second round of the SEC tournament and face No. 2 Tennessee.

The first half was quite uneventful for both sides. The Gators came out strong, dominating time of possession in the first fifteen minutes, but would eventually stagnate. Outshooting Vanderbilt six to three, Florida’s finishing struggles still lingered.

“We had some opportunities where we missed that final ball,” coach Amato pointed out at half, “just getting that final touch through there.” 

Florida could not maintain the aggression they showed in the first third of the first half and Vanderbilt took advantage. In the 72nd minute, Madison Elwell took the ball down the left sideline and delivered a long strike over Goldberg’s fingers to give Vanderbilt the first goal of the match, and the season, between the two squads.

As time was scarce, the Gators were face to face with elimination. All-SEC second teamer Kit Loferski sent a cross into the box. The ball found the back of Vanderbilt midfielder Abi Brighton’s head where it was redirected into the back of the net. Loferski had tied the game for the Gators with 1:36 on the clock.

Two ten minute halves of overtime were quite uneventful. Vanderbilt took three shots in this period, none of which came on goal, and Florida took none. The opening match in Orange Beach headed to a penalty shoot out.

“Take a deep breathe, pick your spot, hit it HARD, and we’ll live with the results” coach Amato told his team heading into penalties.

Goalkeeper Kate Devine took the first penalty for the Commodores. Her shot went above Goldberg into the net. Madison Alexander matched Devine’s goal with one of her own. Schaumburg and Leskausks both hit their shots as well to make it 2-2.

Abi Brighton was in the spotlight for the Commodores. She was unable to deliver as her shot went wide right, giving the Gators the opportunity to take the lead. Cameron Hall took it by banking a shot off the left post into the net.

Vida Raietparvar and Maddy Rhoades both successfully converted their penalties for their respective sides to head to the fifth and final round with Florida ahead 4-3.

Sophomore Amber Nguyen lined up for the first spot kick of her young collegiate career. Nguyen had scored one goal on eighteen shots in two seasons at Vanderbilt. She stumbled to the ground as she took the shot, the ball sailed wide right, and the Gators were victorious. 

A ninth win in nine matches against the Commodores in Orange Beach sends the Gators to the second round of the tournament where they will face the Tennessee Volunteers. That match will take place on Tuesday at 1 p.m. eastern.

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