November 8, 2015,
Special report on the Florida Gators soccer team
ORANGE BEACH, Alabama -The University of Florida soccer team claimed the 2015 Southeastern Conference Tournament title with a 2-1 win over two-time defending tournament champion Texas A&M Sunday at the Orange Beach SportsPlex.
The win is the 11th for Florida in its 16 SEC Tournament final appearances and first since 2013.
With the win, Florida receives the SECs automatic NCAA berth. The Gators will be making its 19th NCAA appearance in the 21-year history of the program. The entire field is revealed on NCAA.com Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET.
All the scoring for the match came in the opening half. Texas A&M took advantage of a Gator turnover at the top of the UF defensive third to score the first goal of the match. Mikaela Harvey won the ball and sent it to Emily Bates making a run down the left side of the box. Bates' cross found Haley Pounds making a run down the right side and Pounds scored with a 16-yard left-footed shot at 22:45.
A pair of set-play goals gave Florida the winning margin. The first came off a Christen Westphal<http://www.gatorzone.com/guides/soccer/pages/season_info/player_bios/westphal_christen.php> corner kick. Her kick was headed up by Savannah Jordan<http://www.gatorzone.com/guides/soccer/pages/season_info/player_bios/Jordan_Savannah.php> and the ball's trajectory found Brooke Sharp<http://www.gatorzone.com/guides/soccer/pages/season_info/player_bios/Sharp_Brooke.php> at the opposite post. Sharp right-legged volley scored in the upper slot in the 29th minute.
A free kick was awarded in the 43rd minute when Meggie Dougherty Howard<file:///\\uaadata\Comm\SIDDATA\Soccer\Mary\Soccer%202015\Releases\Two%20Gators%20with%20Double-Digit%20Goals%20Total> was fouled just above the box. Westphal took the kick and her 20-yard shot curled under the crossbar for her second free kick goal in as many matches.
* Westphal scores the game-winning goal in consecutive matches. The 2015 SEC Defensive Player of the Year scored the first goal in Florida's 2-0 semifinal win versus Auburn. Her goal Sunday is her third goal of the season and the fourth of her career.
* Sharp's goal is her 11th of the season. Her 2015 season total is more than double of her freshman and sophomore total (1 - 2013; 4 - 2014).
* Florida faced the two teams that took wins in the 2015 regular-season meetings in the final two rounds of the SEC Tournament. Florida lost 3-2 at Auburn on Sept. 27 and won 2-0 in the SEC semifinal on Friday. In the SEC opener for all league teams, Texas A&M won 2-1 in Gainesville on Sept. 10. Sixty days later, Florida takes the win by the same score.
* Today's win evens the Florida-Texas A&M all-time series at 6-6. Ten of the 12 all-time meetings between these programs have been decided by a single goal.
* Florida's two goals versus Texas A&M were the first surrendered by the Aggies since the 2013 SEC Tournament final (2-1 TAMU win over Florida). The Aggies entered Sunday's match with five consecutive shutouts in SEC Tournament play (three in 2014; two in 2015).
SEC Tournament Title Notes:
* This is Florida's 11th win in its 16 SEC Tournament final appearances.
* Florida sweeps the SEC soccer titles for the sixth time since the league began awarding a regular-season title in 2000. Prior SEC team champions were based on the SEC Tournament champion. The Gators won the 2015 SEC regular-season title with their record of 8-2-1.
* The Gators lead the league in both total SEC titles (14) and SEC Tournament (11) crowns.
Four Florida players appear on the 2015 SEC All-Tournament team - Meggie Dougherty Howard, Claire Falknor<http://www.gatorzone.com/guides/soccer/pages/season_info/player_bios/falknor_claire.php>, Savannah Jordan and Christen Westphal.
The SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player went to Westphal. This is the 13th time a Gator has claimed the SEC Tournament MVP and Westphal is only the second Florida defender to claim the honor (goalkeeper Jordan Kellgren<http://www.gatorzone.com/soccer/bios.php?year=2002&bio=kellgren_j.html> was 2002 SEC Tournament MVP).
What the Gators Said:
What did you think of the Gators performance today?
"The biggest thing to look at is the game we played against Texas A&M two months ago and this game - it was such a marked difference. That just shows the progress this team has made along the way.
"It is a real testament to the resilience this team has shown. We started a little slow, but the team kept trusting in what we were doing, kept working really hard and here we are. This team has shown so much resilience throughout the year. Even though we went down 1-0 and weren't playing that well at the beginning, it was a testament to this group to bounce back again. What I really like was at midway through first half, we were able to turn the tide. We weren't able to do that on Friday so to see them do that today was really impressive." - Florida head coach Becky Burleigh
There were several subs that played significant minutes today.
"I thought the people who came on in the first half made a huge difference. When you have the opportunity, can you step up and get it done? I think that happened today." - Florida head coach Becky Burleigh
How did you think the team performed today?
"The first 15 minutes were a little shaky and I think that was due to all the emotion. Once we settled down and played the way we know how to play, we could break down their high pressure." - senior defender Christen Westphal
What happened on your goal?
"Christen [Westphal] just crossed it in. I was at the front post. Whenever it goes over me, my job is to frame the goal. The ball came right at me and I placed it in the upper 90." - junior midfielder Brooke Sharp
You were fouled just above the box, leading to Christen Westphal's game winning goal:
"It was about getting numbers forward and being able to press them. The foul we got today was identical to the one on Friday so it was great for us to get in that position again. Christen hit an awesome free kick." - junior midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard
This was your second consecutive match with a free kick goal. What did you see that led up to the goal?
"I could hear the goalkeeper say 'watch the dummy, watch the dummy' so I kind of felt like she was going to go that way. So I went the other way." - senior defender Christen Westphal
How did the team get past the early losses in SEC play?
"At the beginning of the year, I was really frustrated and wasn't sure we would make it this far. But we kept buying into the team and trusting one another." - senior defender Claire Falknor
How does it feel to have the won the SEC regular-season and tournament titles?
"It definitely feels awesome because every single member of our team played a huge role in why we are here. We talked about it earlier how no one expected us to win the regular season and no one expected us to win the tournament as well. It feels great to accomplish both things. There are still things left we want to accomplish." - senior defender Christen Westphal
Florida: 17-3-1, 8-2-1 SEC
TAMU: 15-6-1, 6-4-1 SEC
Florida is ranked No. 5 on the November 3 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll<http://www.nscaa.com/rankings/4858/NCAADivisionI/women/Poll11> and Texas A&M is receiving votes.
NCAA Championship action is next for the Gators. The entire 64-team field is unveiled on NCAA.com on Monday, Nov. 9 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Florida will make its 19th NCAA appearance in the program's 21-year history. The Gators advanced to NCAA Quarterfinal action in 2014 but did not move forward as Stanford took a 4-3 penalty kick advantage after the two teams played to a 2-2 double overtime tie.
No. 5 Florida (17-3-1, 8-2-1 SEC) versus Texas A&M (15-6-1, 6-4-1 SEC)
Stadium: Orange Beach SportsPlex
Weather: 67 degrees, 93% humidity, cloudy, winds 9mph NNE
Goals by Period
1 0 1
2 0 2
No. Time Team
Goal Scorer Assist
1. 22:45 TAMU Haley Pounds Mikaela Harvey
2. 28:38 UF Brooke Sharp Savannah Jordan, Christen Westphal
3. 42:12 UF Christen Westphal
Shots: Florida 7; TAMU 10
Saves: Florida 4 (Kaylan Marckese 4); TAMU 2 (Danielle Rice 2)
Cautions: Claire Falknor/UF - yellow (42:52)