With a Florida State forward on her back, redshirt senior defender Kristen Cardano made a calm back pass to goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese in the match’s opening minute. Marckese took a touch and then did the one thing a goalkeeper cannot do when a teammate passes her the ball: pick it up.
The handball led to an indirect free kick inside the Gators’ box and a goal by FSU’s star forward Deyna Castellanos, a goal UF was never able to respond to.
“Unfortunately, it was a bit of a communication issue,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “And you can’t give Castellanos a free kick at the 18. She’s just deadly with those.”
No. 10 Florida fell to No. 16 Florida State at home on Thursday night, 2-0.
And for a team that started hot in the first half of its two previous matches, UF began play without its usual sharpness.
Even in their pregame warm up, the Gators seemed unusually tense, focusing painstakingly on their technique rather than, well, warming up.
This tension showed up in Marckese’s decision to pick up the ball in the first minute and throughout the first half, which saw Florida put one shot on target and committ 10 fouls.
A chance came on a seventh-minute corner kick, when freshman Deanne Rose fielded the ball all alone inside the FSU 6-yard box. And on a chance she normally makes in her sleep, Rose shot at the lone Seminole blocking the front post.
Even captain Gabby Seiler wasn’t immune to making a critical mistake. When a pass filtered to Seiler at Florida State’s back post in the 22nd minute, she skied a routine tap over the crossbar.
“I thought we played with a lot of urgency and intensity,” Burleigh said. “Unlucky to not at least get one back, and we probably should’ve had two in the first half. So sometimes there are opportunities and we finish them and sometimes it doesn’t happen.”
In the 24th minute the Seminoles punished Florida by doubling their lead. FSU midfielder Gloriana Villalobos found forward Dallas Dorosy in space behind the Florida defense and registered her second assist of the match.
From that point on, Florida State saw out the match despite continually ceding the ball to the Gators, with its defensive approach visibly frustrating even the most experienced Gators with its physicality and aggressiveness.
On two separate occasions in the second half, Seiler and junior midfielder Briana Solis committed unnecessary, physical fouls out of pure frustration.
Injuries also made it difficult for UF to come back.
Play stopped for Cardano on multiple occasions in the second half, as she suffered an apparent leg injury and left the game in the 85th minute. The referee’s whistle also blew for junior Mayra Pelayo, who banged heads with an FSU player but finished the match.
“It’s just part of a soccer game,” said Pelayo. “It was a physical match. We just had to play through it.”
Despite the early deficit and losing Cardano, Burleigh believes that her players left the field gaining positive experience.
“I think for us to face a 2-0 deficit at halftime was a great learning experience for us because it required us to make some changes,” she said. “And I think our team responded really well and got after it.”
You can follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.