No. 11 Florida Gators soccer broke the 2-2 tie in overtime against No. 22 Auburn Tigers for a 3-2 win Friday night at James G. Pressly Stadium.
The game started slow in the first period with strength in defensive lines demonstrated by both SEC teams.
Florida grew strong in offense as many goal opportunities arose, but Auburn’s defense was too strong for the Gators to shake.
Most notably, Florida midfield Annie Speese crossed the ball from near left-corner over to Auburn’s box only to get a diving save from Auburn keeper, Amy Howard.
The Tigers grew more aggressive 33 minutes into the game. Auburn midfielder Katy Frierson assisted midfielder Ana Cate in a shocking 14-yard strike from the left side of the box and into goal past Gator goalie Taylor Burke.
Frierson demonstrated quick feet throughout the entire game and kept up against the Gators, especially on midfielder Erika Tymrak, getting a foul for stepping on her feet. Tymrak commented on Frierson saying, “She’s an awesome player, I definitely look up to her as a player. I say the ball is glued to her foot because that is how skilled she is in her footwork.”
The first period ended with an Auburn lead over the Gators 1-0.
“We knew going into the second half we had 45 minutes to score, said Tymrak. “Have fun, pass it around, and the goals are going to come.”
Tymrak called it correctly. The Gators played with patience against a strong Auburn defense when 48 minutes into the game, Gator midfielder Havana Solaun crossed over to Tymrak, who spiked it directly for the goal 8 yards from the center, leaving the score tied 1-1.
Progress was made until a free kick for Auburn led to an own goal by Florida as Gator defender Maggie Rodgers tried to head the ball away from the team’s goal, making this the first own goal of the season and first own goal made in years.
Coach Becky Burleigh commented, “I’m frustrated that the two goals we gave them (Auburn) were poor, but unlike a couple weeks ago (in the Tennessee match) we were able to overcome it and the result was justified.”
The Gators had majority possession of the ball and gained advantage from keeping the game in Auburn territory for the rest of the second half.
Shot attempts were abundant, with a total of nine, but the power behind the kicks and offsetting Auburn’s defense wasn’t successful until Gator midfielder Holly King made a cross pass to Tymrak, who took the ball up the field against three Auburn defensive players and spiked the ball from the arch at the box, sinking it into goal.
When taking shots from far out, Tymrak says “All I think is to hit it in the corner. I take a quick look up and just take the shot.”
The second half ended in a 2-2 tie, sending the game into 10 minutes of overtime play.
“We do a lot of short duration games in practice—7-minute games, 8-minute games—and overtime is like those short games, and our team has made multiple shots during those practices that we feel confident in playing out a short overtime,” Burleigh said.
The Gators proved that practice pays off with a continued strong front against the Tigers, and they maintained possession of the ball with a consistent attacking offense.
The tiebreaker was made with 3 minutes left of the game.
“Holly found me, and then I took a look up and knew Mac (Gator forward McKenzie Barney) was making the run,” said Tymrak. “I slipped her the ball and she made an awesome shot to goal.”
Barney added, “I was wide open as the defenders went after Erika. I took my time and saw the back of the net and just hit it in.”
The Gators won a physically aggressive game 3-2 against Auburn, a team they had lost to in the 2010 season.
Barney said regarding preparation for the Oct. 9 Alabama match, “We respect Alabama. We tied them last year. Alabama has it out for us. They are physical and tough and want the victory. It just comes down to playing Gator soccer and what we’re good at, so we know we’ll be fine.”
The Gators return to James G. Pressly Stadium Sunday at 3 PM, hosting Alabama for their last of the home sets of SEC matches.
Gator Country reporter Michelle Provenzano can be reached at michelleprovenzano@GatorCountry.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mmprovenzano