Gators open with victory at Miami

CORAL GABLES — The Florida Gators have passed the first test of the college women’s soccer season.

In their first game since a disappointing upset in the Round of 16 in last year’s NCAA tournament, the Gators soccer team defeated in-state rival Miami, 1-0, on Friday night.

After a scoreless first half, senior Ashlee Elliott – a preseason All-SEC selection – scored on a pass from fellow senior Tricia Townsend. The goal, scored early in the second half, proved to be the decisive one.

“It was amazing,” Elliott told reporters after the game. “Tricia was coming down the line and we made eye contact. She sent an amazing ball, the most perfect ball I could ever ask for. I jumped over the defender and headed it right in.”

But the lead was nearly lost in the 89th minute, when Elliott was penalized for a hand ball. Miami’s Paulette Ricks-Chambers fired the 22-yard free kick, but it was saved by UF goalie Katie Fraine in the far post.

Fraine also defended a shot in the 90th minute. She finished with five saves.

The game featured a record crowd for Miami, and the 2,227 in attendance matched the intensity of the game with their voices, said Elliott.

“It was a tough match. Miami came out and played us real tough,” Elliott said. “It is a Florida rivalry. They brought it so we had to bring it right back. The crowd was amazing. There were a lot of Gator fans as well as Miami fans. It was a good match and I think everyone enjoyed it.”

Florida head coach Becky Burleigh was proud of the team’s performance.

“Winning on the road is always challenging,” she said. “I thought we could have been more composed, so that is something we’ll be working on in practice. “We have to give credit to Miami for keeping the pressure on throughout the match. Opening the season on the road with a win against a quality opponent is a good start.”

It is the second year that the team has opened the season on the road. Last year’s opener against Colorado, ended in a tie. This season’s home opener will be held Friday night against Florida International. The team was ranked preseason No. 10 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and two women were voted to the Preseason All-SEC List—Elliott and fellow senior Lauren Hyde. Miami just missed the Top 25, coming in at No. 26.