Florida soccer wins on Senior Day

Four goals by three different seniors led to the No. 12 Gator soccer team’s (12-3-1, 9-1 SEC) 4-1 win Sunday over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-8-1, 1-8-1 SEC) on a day celebrating Florida’s senior class. It was the ninth-consecutive victory for Florida, all against SEC opponents.

With the match tied at 1-all, three goals in a 10-minute span put UF in command. Senior midfielder Jo Dragotta broke the tie when she scored her second game-winning goal of her Gator career in as many matches. She scored her first game-changer on Friday in the Gators 2-1 victory over the No. 14 Missouri Tigers.

It was an emotional win for the Gators as they commemorated the careers of five seniors; McKenzie Barney, Dragotta, Holly King, Erika Tymrak and Kathryn Williamson.

The Gators first score came just over four minutes into the match, marking the earliest goal scored by the team this season. Three seniors accounted for the goal that started when King passed the ball up to Tymrak who then glided past two defenders to play a through ball off to an open Barney. Bulldogs goalkeeper Skylar Rosson came up to the six-yard box to defend but Barney was able to cross the ball in low just past Rosson to the far left post. This was Barney’s fifth goal of her senior season.

“Erika dribbles and commits defenders,” Barney said. “She committed two defenders and I made the run that I always make when she commits those players. I took a touch and found that the keeper wasn’t at the post so I tried to hit it there.”

The Gators out-shot the Bulldogs in the first half 12-0 but Barney’s shot was the only one that resulted in a goal. The Bulldogs first shot of the match was a goal at 46:26, which tied the two teams with a goal each. The score happened when Bulldog midfielder Jasmine Simmons crossed the ball from the left side of the field into Florida territory. The ball found the head of Madison McKee who bounced it back to Honeye Heydari at the top of the box. Heydari was able to strike the ball past the hands of a diving Taylor Burke to the far left post.

“We had trouble getting our rhythm and they had that one chance, that one counter,” Barney said.  “It was something that we just had to take a deep breath and relax. We’re just going to play our game and be more disciplined.”

The three-goal flurry started with a blast from Dragotta at 70:47. After battling back-and-forth in front of Mississippi State’s goal, the Gators were finally able to get the ball past defenders and finish. Sophomore Annie Speese broke away from defenders fast enough to get the ball off to Dragotta whose 24-yard strike scored at the top right corner of the net.

“Sometimes our team needs something to boost us up and that second goal definitely boosted us up,” Dragotta said. “I’m just really proud of my team.”

The Gators third goal came off a free kick from Tymrak who took the shot just outside of the 18-yard box at 76:53.

“I got taken down at the top of the box so when I put the ball down I saw a four-foot gap between the wall and the post,” Tymrak said. “The keeper was kind of behind the wall so I just looked at the spot and dropped it low. I basically just focused on hitting the spot because no one was there.”

Florida scored again at 80:23 with a penalty kick from Dragotta after the Bulldogs’ goalkeeper Rosson received a red card and was ejected for denying a goal-scoring opportunity with a foul on freshman Claire Falknor. Dragotta took the opportunity to get her first career double when she scored the penalty shot past backup goalie CJ Winship. Dragotta has scored five goals in her Gator career – all in the last seven matches. She has scored in each of Florida’s last three matches.

Three now share Florida’s lead for season goals at five each – Barney, Dragotta and sophomore Havana Solaun. Tymrak, who leads UF with six assists, shares the season points lead with Solaun at 14 each.

The 2012 senior class claims the nation’s sixth-highest number of wins over the last four seasons with a record of 64-19-6. They have been a part of two Southeastern Conference title teams and have advanced to the NCAA tournament the last three seasons.

“Our seniors are a really special group,” Coach Becky Burleigh said. “They contribute in ways you see on the field and they contribute in ways you don’t see off the field. They’re great leaders and they have certainly left a legacy for this program that’s going to be tough to follow.”

The Gators finish their home schedule today with a record of 8-1 on their home turf this season.

Florida finishes its 2012 SEC regular-season schedule with a three-match road stretch, beginning next Friday at Alabama. The Tide dropped a 2-1 decision to Missouri on Sunday and are 7-7-2 this season. Friday’s match time is set for 8 p.m. ET at the Alabama Soccer Stadium.

Courtesy of UF Communications.