The crowd rose in unison and gave KeLeigh Hudson a standing ovation as she walked off the field in the 70th minute of Sunday's match against LSU.
It was the least they could do after Hudson put in the best performance of her career. The senior midfielder turned in a hat trick during the No. 23 UF soccer team?s 5-0 victory against the Tigers.
BIt was probably way too much,C Hudson said of the standing ovation. BI was just out there trying to get goals for the team. It wasn?t about getting the hat trick or anything like that.C
Hudson?s three goals helped the Gators extend their winning streak to seven games - their longest since an eight-game tear in 2003 - and tied her with Ashley Harris for the team lead in goals with seven.
Hudson didn?t wait long to score. In the fifth minute of the match, Ameera Abdullah?s swift pass found Hudson in the box, and she found the back of the net.
Hudson wasn?t solely focused on offense, though. In the 23rd minute, Hudson connected with forward Ashlee Elliot for a 5-yard header off a corner kick.
Not only was it Elliot?s second goal of the season, but it was also the first preordained score of her career.
BA few hours before the game, Becky (Burleigh) told me I was going to get a header,C Elliott said. BI didn?t know how it was going to come, but in practice, I?ve been going front post all the time. So I thought, 'Let me go try this.? KeLeigh gave a beautiful ball and I got my big head on it.C
The Gators entered the half with a 2-0 lead, but UF had no intention of letting up. At the half, Burleigh put an emphasis on continuing to put pressure on the Tigers.
BWe were disappointed last week not getting the shutout against Alabama,C she said. BWe told our team if we could get one more goal, and the earlier we could get it the quicker, they?d be out of the game.C
LSU made it difficult for the Gators at the start of the second half, showing more aggression than it had throughout the entire first half.
UF?s offense appeared to be stymied until Hudson broke through yet again in the 63rd minute on a goal assisted by Elliot. The score appeared to deflate the Tigers, who allowed Hudson to score again two minutes later.
Daniela Sanchez rounded out the scoring in the 73rd minute to give UF its third consecutive Sunday match with at least five goals.
After opening the Southeastern Conference season 0-2, the Gators appear to be playing with a chip on their shoulders. And that chip is working in their favor, as they are playing arguably the best soccer in the conference.
BWe were the team who everyone wanted to come out against and play hard,C Sanchez said. BThen after we lost to Georgia and Tennessee, I think people started to let up. Our coaches have always said, 'We?re the hunted,? and now they say it?s reversed and we?re the hunters.C