Sara Wilson retreated into her own jersey at the end of the game.
As the gritty match that featured 29 combined fouls waned into extra time, the junior defender from Herndon, Virginia, had an opportunity to head the ball away on another one of Texas A&M’s relentless attacks. She got into position, just inside her own box, and put her skull to the ball.
But as coach Becky Burleigh said earlier this season, “Sometimes soccer is a funny game.”
The ball ricocheted off Wilson’s head and into a perfect arc that landed just inside the far post behind goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese. Wilson buried her head as her teammates gathered to console her.
The No. 17 Gators (14-6-0) lost to the No. 11 Aggies (16-2-1), 2-1, Thursday night in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. The Aggies will move on to a spot in the championship match against Arkansas, while the Gators will wait for the NCAA Tournament’s bracket to come out on Monday.
Texas A&M came out on fire early in each half. The Aggies held possession for much of the first 25 minutes before Burleigh decided to adjust her strategy, calling for her forwards to stretch A&M over the top.
“I think that change made a big difference,” Burleigh said at halftime.
Sarah Troccoli was another difference maker. She came on as a substitute in the 26th minute and had four minutes to get adjusted with the field, her opponent and the game’s speed before she found herself in the right place at the right time. After running up to a deflected pass 25 yards from goal, the junior from Troy, Michigan, hit a screaming shot on the ground and into the corner of the Texas A&M net for her third goal of the season and the early 1-0 lead.
Early in the first half, it was Marckese showing off why she’s been in the Gators’ net since she came back from an early-season hand injury. In a one-on-one situation against First Team All-SEC forward Ally Watt in the 10th minute, Marckese made a hockey-style kick save to keep the game scoreless. Marckese came up with three more saves on the night, with two coming in quick succession just before Wilson’s own goal.
But the Gators' back line could not hold. After the half, A&M continued its high press. The Aggies were rewarded in the 69th minute when both Gators center backs misjudged a long ball that fell at the feet of Rheagan Smith, daughter of legendary UF running back Emmitt Smith. She took a few dribbles before driving a shot inside the far post for her first goal of the season.
After both teams failed to score the rest of the way, the game proceeded into sudden-death overtime. The match marks the first time this season that Florida has scored first and lost.
A TV broadcast contributed to this report.
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