The No. 8 Florida (3-0-0) soccer team opened its season with a murderer’s row of games on the road, with in-state rival Miami and No. 18 Texas A&M (1-2-0) as two of Florida’s first three opponents.
After rolling off 2-0 victories against Miami and Florida International last weekend, the Gators faced a much stiffer test against the Aggies Friday night in Knoxville, Tenn.
Tied 2-2 with just 15 seconds remaining, junior McKenzie Barney delivered the knockout blow to the Aggies, putting the Gators ahead 3-2 and keeping Florida perfect to start the season.
“We just capitalized on an amazing opportunity,” Barney said. “My goal started because Erika Tymrak switched an awesome ball over to Jazmyne (Avant). Jazmyne beat her defender with that speed that everyone knows Jazmyne has. She played a great ball. I told her it is impossible to miss a ball like that. She literally put it on my feet – I could choose which foot I wanted to play it with. Jo (Dragotta) was in the box pulling defenders off of me. It was an awesome ball.”
The Gators didn’t always execute the style of play they wanted Friday, but Barney liked the way the team found a way to get the win.
“At the end of the day, we walk out of here with a “W” versus a team we really respect,” the junior said. “Texas A&M is a great athletic team. It might not have been the way we like to play, but sometimes you just have to find a way.”
Barney’s goal was the only score for either side in the second half, after the teams went to the break knotted at 2-2.
Florida scored first in the 25th minute, when Tymrak used a spin move to create some separation from her defender.
“Holly (King) had the ball in the middle and she passed it to me,” Tymrak said. “I saw the defender coming so I knew that if I moved toward the goal, I’d run right into her so I kind of stepped on the ball to spin around her. I looked up and saw Havana (Solaun) wide open so I passed it to her. I continued my run and got it back inside the 18. I saw that the keeper was near post so I just slide it far post. It was exciting to get my first goal (of the season).”
The Aggies then tied the game at 1-1 when freshman Annie Kunz scored off a volley from 10 yards in the 30th minute. Six minutes later, freshman Kelly Monogue took advantage of a Florida miscue in the defensive third. Monogue brought the ball up the middle and scored from top of the box.
Florida drew level in the 39th minute. Senior Lindsay Thompson, who had just entered the match in the previous minute, crossed the ball from the right and sophomore Taylor Travis headed it from 12 yards to the far post for her second goal of season.
“I believe Havana passed the ball down the line to LT who made an amazing cross,” Travis said. “It was such a good cross I have to give the credit to her. I just got my head on it and it went in. Let’s just say I was excited (to score that goal).
Both teams had their chances in the second half, but a handful of opportunities fell through until Barney’s late-game winner.
Senior goalkeeper Brooke Chancey started her second game of the season, recording three saves.
Florida coach Becky Burleigh thought the Gators got away from their game plan, which will be something the team will need to work on as the season progresses.
“I thought the goals were all spectacular – all three of them,” Burleigh said. “They were highlight reel goals. I thought we got away from our style of play a little bit and from that standpoint we’ve got to be more disciplined. We need to have more trust in each other that we can play the way we want to play and get results.”