With 18:12 remaining in the second half, the lights went out in James G. Pressly Stadium. Losing two light standards didn’t stop the game as a raucous crowd of 4,279 watched #8 Florida (2-1) drop a 3-0 soccer decision to #3 Florida State (3-0). The 16 minutes of playing on a darkened field was an all too grim reminder of the final 19 minutes of the first half when the Gators needed someone to flip on the switch.
FSU got two goals from center striker Dagny Brynjiarsdottir in a two-minute stretch and added another from Michaela Hahn with a minute remaining in a first half that could best be described as a sleepwalk by the Gators. Down 3-0, Florida couldn’t make a dent in the Seminoles’ physical, disciplined defense in the second half, but Coach Becky Burleigh was far more satisfied with what she saw in the final 45 minutes than she was with anything else she saw in the first half.
“I think they’re a good team, there is no question that they’re a good team and I don’t want to take anything away from them, because you don’t come here and win 3-0 without being a good team,” Burleigh said. “I think in the second half I was really proud of our team’s fight and our desire to get back in it, regardless of the fact that we did not. Some of the things that came out of this game are really going to help us down the road.”
Burleigh started the Gators in a 4-5-1 offense that was designed to get the ball to freshman Savannah Jordan, who was National Player of the Week for her five goals in Florida’s first two games. The Gators were able to maintain a slight edge in time of possession in the first half, but they had few legitimate scoring opportunities.The Gators made it a point to get the ball to Jordan but FSU’s defense swarmed her every touch like locusts on a pharaoh’s wheat.
Conversely, Florida State was efficient offensively and took advantage of almost every opportunity. In the 26th minute, center striker Brynjiarsdottir took a pinpoint through-ball and lifted it above Gator goalkeeper Nora Neset Gjoen for a 1-0 lead. Two minutes later, the Gators were burned on a throw-in by Seminole defender Megan Campbell, who fired a laser-guided smart pass that connected with Brynjiarsdottir’s forehead and wound up in the Gator net.
“It was a great throw in and it doesn’t help that on this field, she can throw it to the back post,” Burleigh said. “That’s just very difficult to defend. We’ve got to get better at it and our focus in training on set pieces has got to be better.”
Stunned and on their heels after giving up the two goals, the Gators rallied with their most effective attack of the game when Jordan took a pass barely inside the penalty box, made one quick move and beat her defender for a one-on-one with the FSU goalkeeper, Kelsey Wys. Wys charged Jordan, forced the issue and Jordan struck the ball into Wys’ outstretched leg.
That was it for the Florida offense. The Gators never seriously threatened the FSU defense the remainder of the evening. FSU wasn’t through, however. In the 44th minute, off a Gator turnover in the defensive third, Hahn took a shot from 35 yards out and landed it perfectly in the right upper 90. It was a brilliant shot that could not have been placed better; Gjoen had no chance.
Down 3-0 at the half, Coach Burleigh made several changes.
She made a multitude of substitutions, including bringing in Taylor Burke at goal. She shifted the alignment from the 4-5-1 to an attacker-heavy 4-2-4 in hopes of creating more offense. Although the Gators never got anything going, Jordan thought Florida played with more passion.
“I think we were a little frustrated with how the first half went,” Jordan said. “Not necessarily how we played the whole time, but maybe the goals that we gave up or the times that we switched off. I think that kind of just put fire underneath us. When we came out the second half we were a little mad, in a way, but in a good way. We showed some aggression I think that paid off a little bit in the second half.”
Burke handled the Seminoles in goal in the second half, but the rest of the changes had no positive effect. The Gators dominated the time of possession in the second half due to the additional strikers, but the Seminoles were content to pack the defensive third and protect their three-goal lead.
GAME NOTES: The crowd was the fifth largest in Pressly Stadium history … The largest crowd to watch a game at Pressly Stadium was in 1998 when the Gators faced North Carolina … The Gators return to action Sunday against FIU in Miami for a 7 p.m. contest.