Redshirt sophomore midfielder Parker Roberts, starting her third consecutive game on the back line, watched as Tennessee’s Danielle Marcano received a headed pass into the box. Goalie Kaylan Marckese charged toward the Volunteer forward but couldn’t get to the ball before Marcano got a foot to it to chip it over her.
Roberts, following the ball the entire way, raced for the goal, left her feet, and bicycle kicked the ball away from the box just as it approached the goal line.
“It was funny because we talk about bikes (bicycle kicks) in practice a lot,” coach Becky Burleigh said in a release. “So for her to do it today to save a goal was pretty amazing.”
The No. 20 Gators (13-4-0, 7-2-0 SEC) rode Roberts’ timely save to a 2-1 victory over the No. 11 Volunteers (13-3-1, 5-3-1 SEC) on Sunday afternoon at Regal Soccer Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I thought our possession was the answer,” Burleigh said. “We did a great job of keeping the ball. The combination play was very difficult for them to deal with.”
Although the Gators and Volunteers played to a scoreless tie in the first half, UF needed just nine minutes to break through in the second. Florida’s leading scorer, Deanne Rose, took a pass near the far side of the Tennessee box from Gabby Seiler. Rose took on her defender one-on-one, dribbling a few paces into the box, then reversed course to pass to Sarah Troccoli, who was streaking into the box unmarked. Troccoli hit the ball first-touch from the penalty-kick spot at the Tennessee goalie, who only managed to get a couple fingers on the shot as it trickled by for the first goal of the game.
Tennessee tied it up eight minutes later off a free kick from about 45 yards out. However, Florida continued to press the attack and force multiple turnovers in its opponent’s territory. The Gators’ winning goal ultimately came from one such sequence.
A Volunteer midfielder took a heavy touch just shy of midfield, and junior Briana Solis pounced on the mistake. She tackled the ball away and into possession of freshman Madison Alexander. Solis, continuing her run, streaked past the UT back line that had converged on Alexander. She received the pass back, lined up her shot and drove the ball into the far corner of the net just beyond the reach of the Volunteer goalie for the game-winning score.
“It was a classic late-in-the-season SEC meeting between two good teams,” Burleigh said.
The Gators return to Gainesville to wrap up their regular season when they take on No. 3 South Carolina (14-1, 8-0 SEC) on Thursday night at 7 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
You can follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin, and contact him at [email protected].