Florida opened its Southeastern Conference tournament schedule on Halloween, and Ole Miss gave the No. 1 seeded Gators a scare.
But in the end, UF topped Ole Miss 2-1 to advance to a semifinals match against Missouri on Friday.
The Gators had controlled the game since a 12th-minute goal off the foot of Jo Dragotta gave them an early lead. Florida had buckled down on defense, preventing Ole Miss from getting a solid attack going. That lasted until the 81st minute.
The Rebels lined up for their third corner kick in two minutes. Forward Sara Coleman delivered the ball into the box, and defender Maddie Friedmann got it past goalkeeper Taylor Burke, tying the game and shocking the Gators.
“We need to stop giving away too many corner kicks,” Dragotta said after the game. “They’ve been our Achilles’ heel all year.”
With only nine minutes remaining in regulation, Florida pressed the attack forward, taking three shots in the next 8 minutes. Junior Maggie Rodgers had a one-on-one opportunity against Rebels keeper Kelly McCormick, but her shot landed in McCormick’s hands.
In the 89th minute, junior Taylor Travis was fouled outside of the penalty box, and SEC Offensive Player of the Year Erika Tymrak took the free kick.
“The clock was running down, it was a tie game, and it’s single elimination,” Tymrak said. “I kind of knew I had to put it in.”
“I saw a gap, and Adriana (Leon) and Havana (Solaun) were up there with me, and they said, ‘Erika, this is your shot, take it.’… I just took a deep breath and hit it.”
Tymrak’s shot flew past McCormick and gave the Gators the win. Florida (15-4-1, 12-2 SEC) had no trouble holding on to its 2-1 lead for the last minute and a half against Ole Miss (13-9, 5-9 SEC) and advanced to the SEC tournament semifinals.
“Just winning and advancing is the goal at this point, and we did just that,” coach Becky Burleigh said.
The Gators built their momentum early in the first half, something they had struggled with during their past few games. Florida took five shots in the first half, including Dragotta’s early goal.
“We really moved the ball well in the first half and created a real boatload of opportunities,” Burleigh said.
Florida will try to carry the momentum from this victory into its semifinal match against Missouri on Friday. The Gators defeated the Tigers 2-1 in their previous meeting on Oct. 12.