Kaylan Marckese froze. Moving to her right, UF’s junior goalkeeper realized the shot by South Carolina’s Lindsey Lane was actually twisting to her left, but it was too late.
Lane’s 77th minute goal doubled the lead for the Gamecocks, securing defeat for Florida in a 2-0 match Friday at Eugene E. Stone III Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina.
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The Gators (17-7) found themselves playing from behind for nearly the entire match. For the second time this season, they let the Gamecocks (19-2-1) get on the board early.
On the match’s first corner kick, Lane found teammate Grace Fisk at UF’s back post in the 13th minute. The defender headed the ball straight into the ground, causing it to bounce over the head of post-protector Deanne Rose, just under the crossbar and out of the reach of Marckese.
“We were disappointed to give up that goal on the corner, as I thought we had that covered,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said in a press release. “Even after that, I thought we were in it.”
Florida responded by creating a chance of its own.
In the 20th minute, senior Gabby Seiler found herself with an one-on-one opportunity against South Carolina goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski, but she was unable to control her shot with her weaker right foot, shooting it right at Krzeczowski.
Despite a 5-3 shot advantage in the first half, the Gators didn’t find an equalizer before the intermission.
The halftime deficit meant that Florida would have to score against a South Carolina defense that only allowed six second-half goals all season.
When the game restarted, UF came out firing. It registered three shots in the half’s first five minutes. And in the 50th minute, junior Mayra Pelayo shot a rocket that forced Krzeczowski to make a sprawling save at her near post.
Even though Florida tallied eight shots and seven corners in the second half, the tight defending by USC minimized the chances from becoming dangerous. The Gamecocks blocked four of UF’s second-half shots and only allowed one header on seven corner kicks.
The Gators kept South Carolina’s offense quiet for most of the match as well, allowing only two shots on goal in the match. However, the Gamecocks converted both shots on target into goals, punishing Florida on its limited opportunities and advancing to the College Cup in Orlando.
“The second goal was a little bit of a back breaker,” Burleigh said. “But what ran through my mind at that point is ‘This is going to be a heck of a story.’ Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the one [goal] to get the flow going.”
You can follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.