The No. 12-ranked Florida Gators soccer team rebounded from a loss to Tenenssee last weekend with a 2-0 win against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Friday night at James G. Pressly Stadium.
Florida (9-3, 2-1 SEC) kicked off its first of four-consecutive SEC matches at home with the win against the Commodores with a crowd of 2,541 Gators fans and former players in attendance.
Showing strong support for the Gators, fans and soccer teammates chanted with spirit in the start of the first half as Gators took possession of the ball quickly after the Commodores’ kickoff.
The Gators’ offense was in great shape, trapping and keeping the ball in Vanderbilt’s half the majority of the first period.
Shot attempts were made early by the Gators as junior midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak made a quick pass to junior midfield McKenzie Barney, who went for a straight shot to goal that was ultimately saved by Vanderbilt goalkeeper Alexa Levick.
It wasn’t until the 22nd minute of the first half that the Gators scored their first goal.
Coming off a corner kick, Gator defender Maggie Rodgers sent the ball soaring into the middle of Vanderbilt’s goal box to Tymrak, who spiked the ball from 20 yards out and over a line of Commodore defenders, sending it straight into the goal.
Tymrak said Rodgers’ assist was “awesome” and that she “just looked up, saw the space and ripped the ball into goal.”
Tymrak said that hanging at the edge of the goal box is where she can get her touch advantages to “clean up the garbage” and either take a shot or make a snap pass.
The Gators held up strong against Vanderbilt throughout the first half, “clicking and connecting passes, playing one-two-touch soccer,” Tymrak said.
Florida took advantage of five corner kick opportunities during the first half that resulted in both goals.
With nine minutes left, the Gators set up acorner kick in which freshman midfielder Havana Solaun assisted with a pass to junior midfielder Holly King.
King, at a 5-yard position from the right side of Vanderbilt’s goal, shot the ball past Commodore goalkeeper Levick and into the net to put the Gators up 2-0.
UF head coach Becky Burleigh said she had missed seeing the goal made by King but knew that it “came off the corner” which she was proud of because the team worked on the executions of corner kicks at Thursday’s practice.
Vanderbilt rallied with a shot on goal at the end of the first half when defender Kate Goldin was denied by Florida goalkeeper Brooke Chancey.
“I really didn’t feel like Vandy had any good looks,” Burleigh said. “We respect Vanderbilt for coming out and playing us.”
Although Vanderbilt (6-5, 0-3 SEC) grew stronger in its defense by closing in on Florida players and keeping them from scoring more goals, the Commodores lacked impact in their offense, allowing the Gators to take advantage of the space to move up field.
Despite the space advantage, the Gators took many shot attempts — a total of 17, including eight on goal — but lacked precision in their offense to make goals happen for the remainder of the game.
“We had massive amounts of opportunities but we didn’t finish them and it is definitely something we’ll have to work on in practice this next week,” Tymrak said.
Substitutes came in for the Gators, notably after Holly King suffered an ankle injury on a play when a foul was not called and play continued.
Fouls were in abundance as each team tried to battle for possession. A total of 13 fouls were called in the second half, nine on Florida and four on Vanderbilt.
“The only thing that wasn’t efficient about our play on this game was our finishing, but it was probably one of our most complete efforts in trying to limit the other team’s offense,” Burleigh said.
The post-game fireworks display gave even more enjoyment to the Gators’ win, but Burleigh said the team must be prepared now to “put teams away a little more efficiently” on Sunday.
Florida will host Kentucky on Sunday at 2 p.m. Florida fans are encouraged to wear orange to the match and bring canned good for the “SEC Together We Can” food drive. The Wildcats defeated South Carolina 1-0 in Columbia on Friday.
Gator Country reporter Michelle Provenzano can be reached at michelleprovenzano@GatorCountry.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mmprovenzano