In the midst of losing their first game to No.3 North Carolina on the road, the Florida Gators had all intentions to get that first win this season in their home opener. As the sun was setting over Donald R. Dizney Stadium on Wednesday night, the Gator fans got exactly that, a win. No. 4 Florida (1-1, 0-0) handled Jacksonville (0-1, 0-0) rather easily in a 14-5 win.
Even though Jacksonville possessed the ball much longer than Florida, the Dolphins didn’t get the same results. Their play consisted of pass after pass after pass; they just couldn’t penetrate the tough Florida defense. On the other end, Florida was able to pass, shoot and score with ease consistently throughout the match.
Florida started off with seven unanswered goals. The Dolphins finally found the back of the net in the second half. They scored three goals in five minutes, and it seemed like they were back in the game. The Gators killed that momentum with scoring seven more to solidify their lead.
Freshman Nora Barry was a crucial factor for Florida. In only her second game as a Gator, Barry was able to tally not just her first goal but her first five goals in her career.
“It was really exciting,” Barry said with a smile on her face when referring to her first goal. “It just gives you so much adrenaline for the rest of the game, and I was just happy to have that first goal under my belt.”
Another newcomer, junior transfer Gabi Wiegand, had an equally impressive game. Wiegand was a dominant force throughout the game finishing with five goals and an assist.
“They were playing a backer zone so there was always somebody open,” Wiegand said. “We were just trying to find the open girl. Sometimes it happened to be me, and other times it was other girls. It was really just hitting the open girl.”
Since transferring from the University of Richmond, Wiegand has been spectacular and is leading the Gators in scoring with six goals for the season.
UF coach Amanda O’Leary was excited after the performances of the newcomers.
“They are just really dynamic,” said O’Leary. “Nora just played the entire field. She played defense, she played midfield, she played attack, I mean she just did it all tonight. And Gabi, what a fantastic finish she had to all of her shots. I’m just really pleased with our newcomers. They’ve made a mark here at Florida.”
Junior Kitty Cullen scored the first goal of the game but had no further impact after that. With 35 seconds left in the first half, Cullen got removed from the game after accumulating two yellow cards. Cullen was one of two Florida players that got removed from the game.
To say this was a physical game would be downplaying the actual intensity and frustration that was shown by both teams. Every other second there was a whistle blown or a girl lying on the ground after getting hit in the face or being tripped.
If there was a negative from this game for Florida, it was fouling. The Gators continuously got whistled for sloppy and unnecessary fouls committed on Jacksonville. Florida had a total of 26 fouls and six yellow cards. This was a statistic that O’Leary said was unacceptable.
“We need to be more composed,” said O’Leary. “We need to not swing with our sticks. That’s just unacceptable. We need to be better because every time you get a yellow card you are a man down, and it’s just so detrimental to the defense. It makes their job so much more difficult.
“If there’s one thing that I can take away from this that I’m a little disappointed in, it’s our lack of being able to be composed and not swing.”
In the end, the Gators were able to pull off their first win and are now looking ahead to next Sunday when they will have to travel to Baltimore, Maryland to take on UMBC.
As the 783 Gator fans cheered “It’s great to be a Florida Gator” at the end of the game, there’s no denying the atmosphere at Dizney Stadium is one-of-a-kind. While putting her arms in the air and sporting a big smile, O’Leary gave her take on the crowd.
“You got to love Gainesville.”