UF Soccer ends SEC drought

One quest has been fulfilled, yet another remains.

Florida soccer scored just one goal Sunday against Kentucky, but that was all the Gators needed for their first Southeastern Conference victory during a rainy afternoon at Pressly Stadium.

The Gators entered the match 0-2 in league play for the first time in their program’s 13-year history, so the search for style points will have to be postponed in favor of pragmatism. A win is a win, isn’t it?

“We’ve got to start somewhere and that was our first win in the SEC. We’ve just got to keep building off this,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said.  “It’s one game at a time. To get three points (in league play) is super important and that’s what happened.”

Florida scored midway through the first half on a header by Stacy Bishop who took a well-placed cross from 6 yards out. The assist came from Karly Findorff, who made a nice run down the left side.

“I really didn’t have to do anything,” Bishop said. “Karly played a nice ball in. I just had to get something on it.”

The score was huge for Florida (5-4-2, 1-2), which began the match with the SEC’s weakest offense after mustering just one goal during its first two league matches. But it’s not as if the Gators didn’t create opportunities. In fact, they generated 44 shots against Georgia and Tennessee, but lost to both foes.

So when Bishop finally finished, the pressure subsided.

“(Scoring first) was very important,” Bishop said. “We’ve been playing well. We just haven’t had the results. The luck hasn’t been going our way. We’re hoping to turn it around today and hopefully start a streak. It was a good momentum swing.”

Bishop, a midfielder, who transferred to UF from LSU, has scored the Gators’ last three goals. The other two came against Nebraska and Georgia.

“Coach has told me to stay forward more, because I was playing too much defense,” Bishop said.  “So it’s paid off getting (in position) to where I could score. Good balls are coming in.”

With Bishop penetrating and passing from her midfield spot, Florida created nearly at least a half dozen quality scoring chances, but Kentucky keeper Sydney Hiance rallied her squad with 10 saves. None of the stops were spectacular, but that’s because Hiance rarely had to move.

“I would have liked for us to have tested her more,” Burleigh said. “We hit some right at her. We need to do a better job of shooting far post.”

Florida, ranked 25th by the Soccer Times, out shot UK (6-4-2, 0-4) 17 -5. But the Wildcats nearly tied the match late in the second half when Nicola Holdsworth split two defenders and forced UF goalkeeper Katie Fraine off the line for a smothering save, a play that may have prevented overtime.

“I just came out and threw my hands out,” Fraine said. “Somehow we got a goal kick. I don’t know what the ref saw, but I’ll take it. I’d rather have a goal kick than a corner any time.

“I’m really glad I made the save. You never know what happens in overtime. We don’t want to come out with a tie.  It was nice to come out with another win.”

The UF victory inched Burleigh toward college soccer’s elite. She has won 299 matches, one short of 300, an accomplishment only four other current Division I coaches have achieved – North Carolina’s Anson Dorrance (633 wins), Connecticut’s Lee Tsantiris (446), Santa Clara’s Jerry Smith (330) and Massachusetts’ Jim Rudy (301).

“It’s not a big deal,” Burleigh said. “Maybe after it’s all over it will be a big deal, but not at the moment. I’d rather get the three points, (a win) and move on in the SEC.”

Florida returns to action Friday when it visits Ole Miss. The Gators’next home match is set for Oct. 19 against Auburn.