The Florida Gators soccer team downed the William & Mary Tribe 5-2 in the second round of the NCAA Soccer Tournament on Friday night. The win set second-seed Florida up for a showdown against the third-seeded Duke Blue Devils on Sunday.
Duke set the tone Friday, overwhelming their non-seeded FGCU with a 2-0 victory at Donald R. Dizney Stadium just hours before the Gators hosted the Tribe on the same field.
William & Mary hung tough for a while, though. It took until 39 minutes and 45 seconds into the first half for Florida to manage a score. When Meggie Dougherty Howard’s shot hit the far corner and landed safely in the goal, it was a realization of all the other close efforts they had had over the first 40 minutes. These included ones that were kicked across the goal just sailing wide and one that looked to go in but bounced off of the upright- delaying a score a little longer.
Soon the floodgates would open, and possession was the key. “I thought from a possession standpoint, it was exactly what we wanted to do. We kept the ball a lot, and that made things very difficult for William & Mary.”
Florida Head Coach Becky Burleigh weighed in on what was evident to most everyone watching the game. Although there was a low score in the first half, the Gators were constantly on the Tribe’s side of the field.
This is made more evident by shot comparison in the first half. Florida amassed 12 shots to a paltry two for William & Mary. Even more concerning for the Tribe was that both of those shots were taken on the same possession. Other than that one push they made in the first period, they did not pressure the Gators much at all in terms of scoring.
Heading into the second half, though, William & Mary was still only down one score. That’s where Florida shut the door.
In the 59th and 60th minutes, the Gators’ Savannah Jordan and Sarah Troccoli helped each other out. It started with Jordan taking a pass from Troccoli and making the one-touch goal with her right foot. This was Jordan’s 23rd goal, setting a new season record for herself (previously in 2013 with 22 goals), but that wouldn’t be the end of the fireworks for her.
Just over a minute later, Jordan returned the favor to Troccoli, with an assist to the freshman for the game breaking score. The junior passed the ball through the box to Troccoli for the goal from five yards out.
At this point in the game, with Florida being up 3-0, the Tribe needed points in a hurry. Soon afterward, they had what looked like a prime opportunity. Then, just as it looked like William & Mary was going to score, Liz Slattery- who was almost in the goal- made a huge save and kicked the ball to safety.
Florida proceeded to march right back down the field and score again in the 71st minute. The goal was made by none other than Savannah Jordan yet again. She now has 24 goals on the season and 65 in her career. This ranks her second highest among current collegiate players in points scored. Additionally, among the four players that currently have more than 60 career goals, Jordan is the only junior.
From this point in the game onward, the Tribe would score twice and Florida would score once more on a goal by Pamela Begič. By the end of the game, though, William & Mary was down by too much and had just been too worn down to pose a real threat to come back. Speaking to this, Coach Burliegh said “I think part of that just comes down to fatigue because when you chase the ball, first of all, it’s physically tiring, but it also really mentally wears on you.”
The Gators’ coach wasn’t thrilled with Florida giving up the two goals late, but she was pleasantly surprised with how far down her roster she was able to play with.
“It’s not often in a NCAA game that you can go that deep, and we were really happy to do that. I think the players that came on kept the level very high, and that was exciting to see.”
- This was the fourth game this season in which the Gators scored four goals in one half. The other three were at Miami, at Jacksonville, and against Arkansas on Florida’s senior day.
- Florida more than quadrupled William & Mary in shots on Friday, logging 21 to the Tribe’s five.
- Friday night marked Savannah Jordan’s sixth multi-goal match of the season and 17th of her career.
- This win is the fourth time in Florida’s NCAA history that it has scored five or more goals. The last was 5-1 effort over James Madison in the second round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament.