Luck of the Irish topples Florida

The first month of the season is about evaluating, what works, what doesn’t. If that’s the case, then the first item on the to-do list for Florida’s soccer team could be summed up in a single phrase.

1) Learn how to finish.

That was the story for the thirteenth-ranked Gators Sunday evening during a soggy 2-0 loss to Notre Dame at Pressly Stadium. The home team generated more than twice as many shots—11 to four – but never contested the outcome. Notre Dame, the 2006 national runner-up, made the most of its chances, scoring early in the first half and midway through the second to take control.

“In the run of play, I think we played really well,” Florida coach Becky Burleigh said.  “We gave them everything they could handle and more. What we have to do is score goals. They got two goals against the run of play and they went up 2-0. Soccer is a crazy sport that way sometimes.”

Florida (1-1) dominated possession and created multiple scoring chances, but never found the net during a match that started 30 minutes late because of an afternoon thunderstorm and was delayed more than four hours because of lightning and flooding.

Play was stopped at 2:30 p.m.—with 15 minutes left in the first half – and did not resume until 7 p.m. However, Burleigh refused to blame the delay for her parched offense.

“Weather’s the same for both teams,” Burleigh said. “The delay’s the same for both teams. I thought our team came out really hard. That’s tough to play 15 minutes like that before halftime. I thought they did a good job with that. I was really impressed with our players’ ability to play smart and play hard. We knew we could play smart. That’s the first time we’ve seen ourselves play at that level as far as toughness. It was a physical match and we didn’t back down. We were unfortunate to come out on the losing end.”

Eight UF players created at least on shot. Ashlee Elliott and KeLeigh Hudson combined to challenge the goal five times, but Notre Dame stymied each try. It was only the second time in 105 matches that the Irish have been outshot.

“We were really close,” Hudson said. “We were finally getting those passes connected and when we got it around goal, we were throwing our bodies around and we just seemed to be an inch off or so. But we’ll just have to learn from our mistakes, move on and put this game behind us.”

The solution could hinge on more practice, not to mention patience.

“I think it’s something we have to get more disciplined with,” Burleigh said. “It’s not like we don’t have the chances. The opportunities are there. We’re creating the chances. It’s going to take that much extra to stick the ball in the back of the net. We’re capable of doing that.  I’m not panicked about that. It’s just a matter of us doing it.”

Notre Dame (1-0-1) got an assist and a goal from Elise Weber and one score from Brittany Bock. Both shots came from about 5 yards out. The first one—at the 6:28 mark—was a header by Bock. Weber, assisted by Kerri Hanks, beat two defenders for her second-half score.

“As a team we made two mental errors—not in goal—and that led to two goals,” Burleigh said. “On the first goal, it was set piece and it was miscommunication. Not sure about the second one. I’ll have to watch tape of that one.”

The Irish weren’t overwhelming, but they were efficient.

“I don’t think another team will dominate Notre Dame like that the rest of the season,” Burleigh said. “To their credit, they came away with two goals and that’s all that matters.”

UF welcomes South Florida Friday evening and rival Florida State Sunday afternoon.