The No. 13-ranked Florida Gators soccer team (14-4, 7-2 SEC) dropped a 1-0 decision to the LSU Tigers (11-6-1, 6-3 SEC) on Sunday in a key SEC battle for both teams. The loss was Florida’s first-ever in women’s soccer to the visiting Bayou Bengals.
The Gators came home this weekend tied with South Carolina for the in the SEC standings with a 7-2 record and a total 21 points this season. Florida now has to win over South Carolina in the regular-season finale for both programs next Friday night to earn a tie for the SEC Championship. A UF win combined with a LSU win at Arkansas on Friday would create a three-way tie for the SEC title between Florida, Louisiana State and South Carolina.
Before the match began, the Gators took the home-field advantage to recognize the senior players on the team; Tahnai Annis, Jazmyne Avant, Brooke Chancey, Sarah Chapman, Katie Kadera, Lindsay Thompson, and Lindsay Williams were all honored by head coach Becky Burleigh. The players and their families were awarded with framed Gators soccer jerseys.
The first scare for the Gators came when UF keeper Brooke Chancey went to pass the ball to a teammate, when LSU midfielder Taryne Boudreau attacked the pass in hopes of scoring a goal with multiple Gators defenders out of the box. Chancey was able to make the save, however.
Once again, the Gators couldn’t finish on their scoring opportunities, a problem they have had to deal with multiple times in recent weeks.
“Ultimately, getting in the eighteen and finishing chances is just coming back to bite us once again,” said Gator Burleigh, talking about the numerous shot attempts in the box.
Gators midfielder Erika Tymrak added, “It is unacceptable that we didn’t finish. We had tap-ins. We had our chances. We had cross after cross, but we just didn’t put it away.”
UF midfielder Lindsay Thompson had a chance to give Florida the lead in the first half. Attacking to the right of LSU’s half, she quickly ran the ball up the side of the box. After attempting three times to cross the ball and find the back of the net, she was unable to convert a major scoring opportunity for the Gators.
LSU broke through in the 32nd minute as Tigers midfielder Natalie Martineau sent a square ball to her teammate Boudreau. Boudreau spiked the ball in from 30 yards out and gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead that they would not ultimately relinquish.
“I think when a shot is taken from distance we need to be better prepared for it,” said Burleigh, “but we also have to put pressure on the ball so they can’t shoot from that distance. We gave up a bad goal, and ultimately we still had time to recover from that.”
The consistency of the Florida offense to move the ball into LSU territory and keep possession throughout the first half was impressive considering the aggressive nature of the LSU defense.
“The first half was absolutely great soccer, probably the best we have played all year,” Burleigh noted. “We really moved the ball well, but did not have good final passes in terms of the cross inside the sixth.”
Florida stepped up the pressure following the LSU score. But even with three consecutive corner kicks at one point, and a total of 10 shot attempts in the first half, the Gators still couldn’t manage to find the back of the net.
The game grew more physical as LSU defender Jodi Calloway consistently battled against Gator midfielder Eryka Tymrak and forced the talented junior into a number of bad shots, none of which the Gators could capitalize on.
The second period began with Burleigh making a substitution in the goal, as Chancey came out in favor of Taylor Burke. Burleigh noted she did not expect to have to make that move.
“We didn’t plan on taking Brooke (Chancey) out,” she explained afterwards.
The LSU defensive used an aggressive philosophy in the second half, as two yellow cards were issued to LSU players Martineau and Allysha Chapman for knocking down Tymrak and interfering with a play.
“They definitely played a fouling game,” Tymrak said. “I mean if that’s the type of soccer they want to play then go for it, but that’s soccer. We’re going to sacrifice our bodies to get the ball to our teammates.”
The second half went on with no progress for the Gators, as the LSU philosophy was mostly focused on keeping Florida away from the goal. Offense wasn’t much of a factor for the Gators, but it worked out for the Bayou Bengals.
“The second half was obviously a bunker. I mean, why wouldn’t they—they were up 1-0. It’s not something we haven’t seen before, though, we’ve seen it in half of the SEC schedules,” said Burleigh.
Despite the furious effort from Florida, they ultimately could not finish and ended the contest with their first ever loss on the pitch against LSU.
“The offense didn’t step up, including myself,” said Tymrak. “We didn’t step up and make that sacrifice, making that last sliding tackle that could have put the goal in.”
Burleigh added, “We tried to make something great happen instead of using the strength of our unit, the team.”
The Gators have one more opponent to face and they must win in order to stay at the top with South Carolina for the title.
“It’s like a puzzle, we have to solve it,” said Tymrak. “We just have to work on packing the box like the teams do and work at getting around them in practice. We have to play one-two touch soccer and not rely on an individual effort because that gets us nowhere.”
The Gators will face the Gamecocks at home for all the marbles on Friday night. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. at James G. Pressly Stadium. After that, the soccer team will then go on to compete in the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Ala. from Nov. 2 to Nov. 6.
Gator Country reporter Michelle Provenzano can be reached at email@example.com. You can also follow her on twitter, @mmprovenzano.