GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A goal in each half gave the University of Florida soccer team (5-3-1, 2-1 SEC) a 2-1 win over No. 23 Tennessee (6-2-2, 1-1-1 SEC) Friday in front of a soggy James G. Pressly Stadium crowd.
The earliest Gator score of the season came off a 20-yard crack from junior transfer Adriana Leon. The ball from outside back Lauren Silver found Leon just above the box. Her shot hit the cross bar and then down into the goal at 5:31.
“I remember seeing so much open space in front of me because the defenders backed down, so I shot it,” Leon said.
It was Leon’s second consecutive score for the Gators, as she hit the golden goal Sunday in UF’s 2-1 overtime win at Auburn.
The Gators’ second goal started when Leon, located at the top of the box, received the ball from Havana Solaun and then played the ball left as Solaun continued her run through the box. Solaun took the ball to end line and then sent a cross to the middle of the goal. Senior McKenzie Barney was able to get a touch on it to score in the 52nd minute just before UT goalkeeper Julie Eckel got her hands on it.
“My goal was literally the most team-oriented goal you could get. It’s exactly what we are trying to go for,” Barney said. “The ball went between Annie Speese and Havana multiple times. We found Adriana, so we had her in the mix. We found Havana wide, which is what we want to do because then it provides a ton of space for me to get in the box. I just went near and tried to hit the ball in. It’s the epitome of what we are trying to do on the attack.”
It was Barney’s third goal of the season and her second consecutive Friday with a score.
Tennessee cut the Gator lead with a goal by sophomore Hannah Wilkinson in the 73rd minute. A ball was played for Alexis Owens making a run down the right side of the field. The ball Owens crossed from the end line found Wilkinson and she scored from three yards.
Both goalkeepers came up with big stops Friday. Just two minutes into the match, Wilkinson had a 1v1 opportunity off a counter attack, but Florida sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Burke made the stop on her 10 yard shot. Later in the half, Leon was awarded a penalty kick after she was fouled just inside the box. Eckel made the save to keep UF from taking a 2-0 first half lead.
For the match, Burke turned in two saves and Eckel had four.
Florida Head Coach Becky Burleigh liked what she saw from the Gators Friday, especially in the first 45 minutes.
“I think we played really well with a lot of confidence in the first half. We did a great job keeping the ball and creating opportunities. I thought we did a really great job in the first half,” Burleigh said. “My only disappointment in the team was that we got away from what we did well in the first half, in the second half. They were obviously throwing more numbers forward, which is to be expected when they’re down. We just fell a little more into their game which isn’t really our game plan.”
With just 24 second left in the half, Gator All-American Erika Tymrak suffered a left sprained ankle and was helped from the field. She did not return the match and will be examined by UF medical personnel later this weekend.
A heavy rain shower began almost simultaneously with the start of the match. The rains became a light shower by the end of the half and almost the entire match was played under some rain.
Florida continues home play Sunday when Georgia (5-4-1, 1-1-1 SEC) comes to Pressly Stadium. Match time is set for 2 p.m. and the match airs live on CSS (Gainesville/Ocala Cox Cable channel 259). Georgia suffered its first league loss, a 2-1 decision, at Alabama Friday evening.
UF: Adriana Leon (Lauren Silver) 5:31
UF: McKenzie Barney (Havana Solaun) 52:16
UT: Hannah Wilkinson (Alexis Owens) 73:16
Courtesy UF Communications