Florida Gators soccer advances to the Sweet 16

Special report on the Florida Gators soccer team:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A late opening half goal stood for the length of the match, sending the Florida soccer team to the NCAA Third Round after a 1-0 win over South Florida Friday at the Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

With the win, No. 3 regional seed Florida advances to play Washington State in the NCAA Round of 16. The Cougars advanced with a 3-1 penalty kicks advantage over Tennessee after the two teams played to a 2-2 double overtime tie.

The NCAA Round of 16 match is 2 p.m. Sunday at Dizney Stadium.

How the Goal Was Scored:
A late opening half goal sent Florida into halftime with a 1-0 lead.

A pair of Gator juniors – Mayra Pelayo and Briana Solis – conferred while setting up a free kick above and wide of the box. Pelayo started her left side run and Solis sent a low ball. Pelayo caught up to it and then took a left-footed curling shot that hit the upper part of the far post to fall in at 42:00.

For the match, the Gators outshot the Bulls 12-4 and held a 9-1 advantage for shots-on-goal.

Worth Noting:

* Florida advances to the NCAA Round of 16 for the 13th time in the program’s 21 appearances.

* Pelayo’s goal was her fourth of the season, equaling her season-high set in 2016.

* Solis’ extends her season-high total of assists to six. Her previous high of two was set in 2015. She is second among the 2017 Gators in assists (Gabby Seiler leads with seven).

* Florida now has 10 shutouts for 2017. Kaylan Marckese turned in her seventh of 2017 and 21st shutout as a Gator. She is tied for third among Gator goalkeeper in solo shutouts (shares third at 21 with Jordan Kellgren/1999-02).

* A single goal decided two of the last four meetings between Florida and South Florida. That doesn’t included the 1-1 double overtime tie at USF in 2013.

* The Gator win halted South Florida’s 10-match unbeaten stretch, which includes claiming the program’s first American Conference Tournament Championship.

* Tonight’s crowd of 1,142 is the second highest for Gator soccer when playing NCAA action at Dizney Stadium. The high of 1,152 came in 2016 NCAA Third Round action versus Auburn.

* This was the first meeting between the two programs since 2014 as Hurricane Irma canceled the Sept. 10 match.
Florida: 16-6, 7-3 SEC
USF: 13-4-2, 7-1-1 AAC

What the Becky Burleigh Said:
Opening Statement
“We expected a battle, and it certainly was that. I don’t think we’ve ever had a game with South Florida that wasn’t.

“They’re a talented team, and they brought it all especially in the second half. The first half, I thought we played really well and were unlucky to not score more than one. In the second half again, it’s not unusual to see a game to head in that direction when a team is trying to throw a lot of numbers forward. I think our team really absorbed that pressure very well.” – Florida Head Coach Becky Burleigh

On the pressure in the first 20 minutes
“I loved the way we came out. We had a really aggressive mindset. It was probably unfortunate not to score more than once in that period.

“But again to echo what Rachelle [Smith] just said, [Evelyne] Viens is a good player. She’s tough and she was really held to very little tonight because of a whole team effort. That to me is one of the highlights of the match is just getting the shutout and advancing.” – Florida Head Coach Becky Burleigh

On the push to score after several near misses:
“I know it was just me and Mel [Monteagudo] in the box, but we just talk about near-post runs early, if not just recycle our runs. Deanne [Rose] has been doing a good job beating that player down the line.” – junior midfielder Mayra Pelayo

Her assist on the game-winner:
“We worked on set pieces every practice. We come early. So I saw that player move in, and I knew Mayra was on. It is just nice to finally see it pay off, all our hard work.” – junior midfielder Briana Solis

On her and Parker Roberts’ defending:
“We try really hard to just communicate with each other. It wasn’t so much you’re going to mark this player. We’ve just got to communicate, and not only us two communicating to each other, but also our midfielders and our forwards were letting us know if we weren’t seeing it.” – junior defender Rachelle Smith

On the quick turnaround:
“It is probably an equal situation because I think our match was a very physical match, and they [Washington State] obviously played overtime. So both of us have to recover. This is the toughest weekend in the NCAA tournament – having to play two games in such a short period of time and at such a high level.

“So we’ll spend tomorrow just really fully focusing on recovering and then come back ready to go on Sunday.” – Florida Head Coach Becky Burleigh

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.