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Friday, March 31, 2023

UF advances to round of 16 after win over UCF

With time winding down, the Gators made one final attempt to take a lead into the half.

Lindsay Thompson received the ball from Angela Napolitano with under 10 seconds left. She calmly turned and fired the ball past Central Florida goalie Aline Reis with only four seconds to go, scoring the latest goal in a half in UF history.

"When it came to me, I was just thinking, 'Hurry up, hurry up, just get it in,'" Thompson said.

When the Gators took the field in the second period, the momentum was behind them. They continued to put pressure on the Golden Knights en route to a 2-0 win to advance to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament and redeem their 1-0 loss to UCF earlier this season.

Despite dominating most of the match against UCF on Aug. 29 - the Gators out-shot the Knights 17 to 6 and 8 to 2 in shots on goal - second-seeded UF was unable to get a goal on Reis.

It was much of the same on Sunday - UF had 20 shots and 7 were on goal to UCF's 7 and 1 - except this time the Gators took advantage of their chances.

They got a big confidence boost early when an apparent goal from Sarah Chapman was taken away because she was offsides.

UF forward Ameera Abdullah said they knew if they were in the right spots, they would be able to beat Reis on crosses.

UCF coach Amanda Cromwell made one last attempt with 17 minutes remaining in the match to score an equalizer by subbing in fives players to prepare a switch in formations.

Before the transition was complete, Megan Kerns capitalized on her own rebound to give the Gators breathing room.

"We were talking about going to a 3 (defenders)-4 (midfielders)-3 (forwards) before they even scored that second goal, so we were like 'ugh' (when Kerns scored)," Cromwell said.

Even when UCF was able to get the lineup in, UF's defense made goalie Katie Fraine's job easy, as the only shot on goal was taken from about 30 yards out and didn't pose any threat.

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The UF defense played one of its best games, despite freshman Jazmyne Avant not starting for the first time all year. She struggled to regain her composure after scoring an own goal against Georgia then committing the turnover that allowed California to score its goal on Friday.

Avant made her entrance into the game in the 60th minute to defend UCF's speedy defender Nikki Moore, who was playing forward.

"(Avant) wouldn't have played as many minutes as she has all year for us if she wasn't a good player, and good players and good competitors rise to the competition," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "She did a terrific job of that today."

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