Soccer: Gators handle Colorado

The weekend ended just as well as it started for Florida’s 14th-ranked soccer team. Bouncing back from two losses last weekend, the Gators got goals from three different players Sunday afternoon as they defeated 20th-ranked Colorado, 3-1, at James G. Pressley Stadium.

Although the Gators didn’t score for the first 40 minutes of the game, they were relentless in their pressure and about the same time the sky unleashed the rain, the Gators unleashed their offense, beginning with a Holly King goal from 25 yards out after a throw-in from Jazmyne Avant.

That was all the scoring for the first half, but Florida kept the offense cranked up in the second half. Two minutes into the second half freshman Erika Tymrak and roommate Brooke Thigpen worked a give-and-go that Tymrak blasted past Colorado goalie, Kara Linder.

In the 53rd minute, midfielder Lindsay Thompson broke away at midfield and beat the Linder one-on-one for the Gators final score.

After that, Florida head coach Becky Burleigh was able to bring in the backups. But she wasn’t thrilled with what she saw from them.”

“I thought the last 15 minutes was a little helter skelter,” Burleigh said after the game. “We expect that when we put people in the game, that they play at our level. Colorado had too many opportunities late in the game.”

Colorado scored a late-game goal was scored against Florida backup goalkeeper Kendall Graham that ended the Gators chance for a shutout.

Even though the backups might not have played to their potential or to the level that Burleigh expects, they did get valuable playing time and that, Burleigh said, is more important than a shutout.

“We were winning three to nothing,” Burleigh said, “so we thought it was important to give some people the chance to play because you don’t know how someone is going to react until they get in the game. For some people, today was their first in-game action, and I never thought that would have happened against a team like Colorado. That says a lot about our team, to be able to be in that situation against that kind of team.”

Katie Fraine, who put the Gators in position for the shutout, said she wasn’t disappointed in her understudy’s performance. Although she never likes to leave a game, Fraine was willing to step out to give Graham some playing time.

“It was the first game for (Graham), and I was excited to see her play,” Fraine said. “I think it’s a learning experience for her, and she’ll only come out a better player.”

Fraine, who was particularly outstanding around the 30th minute when she withstood a barrage of Colorado shots, finished the game with five saves.

“When a team gets momentum like that, the best thing we can do is make a couple of good plays and maybe win a couple of 50-50 balls and shut them down before they can grow off of it,” she said.

After the goal by King, Fraine had to adjust her game because of the slippery conditions on the field. Linder didn’t make those same adjustments and as a result, Colordao fell behind.

Fraine credited the offense with keeping the pressure on Colorado. Tymrak, starting her second game at forward, was responsible for much of that pressure. She scored one goal and showed of a magnificent amount of footwork.

“I like to be creative and try knew things,” Tymrak said. “I try to practice a lot of moves, so I put them out on the field today.”

Tymrak said Florida played better this weekend in reaction to a players-only meeting called by the team captains after last week’s two losses.

“Our team chemistry has gotten a lot better on and off the field,” Tymrak said. “We’ve been practicing really hard lately. We’re just gonna work on staying together on and off the field and staying connected.”

Coach Burleigh would not name Tymrak as the starter at forward for the rest of the season, insisting that the top four players in Florida’s attack are interchangeable.

“[Tymrak] starts there, but that’s not where she ends up,” Burleigh said. “It’s a very fluid situation, where we have a lot of people playing up there.”

Still, she said that she has found the right combination on offense.

“Well, I think we have found a good group of people who are going to play in every game,” Burleigh said. “We’re getting good contributions and getting goals from all over the place. That’s tough to defend.”

Now, Florida will turn their attention to in-state rival Florida State. The two teams will collide at James G. Pressly Stadium Friday.

“I think the whole weekend did a lot for our confidence,” Burleigh said. “We came in having lost two in a row, and now we have beaten two quality opponents in Duke and Colorado.”