GAINESVILLE, Fla. –Four goals from three different players gave the No. 14 Florida soccer team (1-1, 0-0 SEC) a 4-0 win over USF (0-1-1, 0-0 Big EAST) Friday night in front of a James G. Pressly Crowd of 1,631.
Florida scored quickly Friday. Junior All-American Ameera Abdullah was fouled and the Gators were awarded a free kick just outside the left side of the USF box. KeLeigh Hudson’s free kick found Ashlee Elliott unmarked in the box and she put it away from five yards for her first goal of the season. The goal, scored at 1:10, matched the seventh quickest goal in Florida soccer history and was the fastest since Abdullah scored at the 1:46 mark Sept. 26, 2006 at Alabama. The Gators did lose Abdullah minutes later when she and USF goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi collided in the box. She left the field at 7:49 and did not appear again in the Florida lineup.
“It was just a collision with the goalkeeper. We’re going to evaluate it,” UF Head Coach Becky Burleigh said. “They just put her in a boot for protective purposes. As far as Sunday’s match, we’ll just have to see how she feels tomorrow.”
The Gators’ next two goals came from senior Ashley Harris. The ball was deep in the USF half when Elliott crossed it into the box. KeLeigh Hudson one-touched the ball to just above the six-yard box where Harris put it away off a far-post run at 63:40. It took Harris less than three minutes to score again, this time off the long pass from Tricia Townsend. The ball took a couple of bounces and Harris used her speed to run onto the ball, chipping it into the far corner at 66:18. It was the first double-scoring match of Harris’ collegiate career, as she turned in her first three Gator goals last season.
Harris, a 2005 All-Southeastern Conference second-team performer at defender, also played at midfield as a junior. This week, the Gator coaching staff had her practice on the frontline.
“Well, we practiced her as a forward a little bit this week. During the match, we recognized that USF was holding really high. Their defensive line was very high which left a lot of space between the goalkeeper and their back line and we felt that her speed could exploit that,” Burleigh said. “And that’s exactly what happened. I think Ashley’s athleticism is a threat anywhere she is on the field and it’s no different when she plays up top or when she plays in the back.”
Harris, who couldn’t remember the last time she scored more than once in a match (but thought it was probably in her club career), was worried that she may have trouble fulfilling what the frontline position required.
“I didn’t want to mess up (at this new position). I always want to get better at whatever position – outside back, center back, midfield or now forward,” Harris said. “I knew what my role was tonight. My job was to disrupt their backline and I actually was able to score a couple.”
Another collegiate first, this time her first goal as a Gator, came from sophomore Jessica Eicken. She received the cross from Bianca Gibbs and hit the five-yard shot from the center of the goal at 86:55 to finish off the Gator scoring for the evening.
Next up, the Gators finish their season-opening four-match home stand when they play host to No. 9 Florida State (2-1, 0-0 ACC) on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1:30 p. m. Sunday’s match will be televised live by SUN Sports, with Mick Hubert and Andy Warner handling the announcing duties. The first 1,000 fans at Sunday’s match receive an orange “Beat FSU” bandana. One lucky fan will also have the opportunity to take the “Dodge Soccer Shot” for $500.00.
Scoring Summary: 1st 2nd Final
USF 0 0 0
Florida 1 3 4
UF – Ashlee Elliott (KeLeigh Hudson) 1:10
UF – Ashley Harris (KeLeigh Hudson, Ashlee Elliott) – 63:40
UF – Harris (Tricia Townsend) – 66:18
UF – Jessica Eicken (Bianca Gibbs) 86:55
Minutes Saves GA
USF Mallori Lofton-Malachi 90:00 5 4
Florida Katie Fraine 90:00 1 0
Statistical Summary: USF UF
Shots 2 13
Saves 5 1
Corner Kicks 3 5
Fouls 16 13
Offside 3 2