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Thursday, March 23, 2023

UF knocks off Alabama in first game of SEC Tournament

Going to overtime never crossed Becky Burleigh's mind.

Even when there were two minutes left and the game was tied at 1, the UF coach had no thoughts of extra minutes.

She must have known something everyone else didn't. With just over a minute to play in regulation, junior Ashlee Elliott found a rebound in the box and put it in the back of the net to give No. 7 UF a 2-1 victory against Alabama - a very different outcome from their first meeting that ended 6-1. The win allows UF to advance to the next round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

"We were ready to cross that bridge if we came to it, but we felt we were getting chances," Burleigh said. "Had it gone to overtime, we wouldn't have panicked. But to finish it in regulation was great."

Even while the Gators were down a goal in the second half, panicking was never an issue.

It was the sixth time this season they were forced to win in come-from-behind fashion.

"(Having that experience) makes it a lot easier at halftime when you are saying, 'Hey, we've been here before, we're going to be fine,'" Burleigh said. "That's a feeling our team has."

Burleigh said the biggest problem in the first half was her team was not making the most of its chances.

Even with most of the Crimson Tide falling back to prevent the equalizer in the second period, the Gators still manufactured opportunities.

First-Team All-SEC member Megan Kerns was finally able to take advantage of one of the scoring chances and tie the game at 1 off a cross from Nicky Kit in the 67 minute.

"We felt like (a goal) was coming, whereas some teams might just go, 'Oh, it's just not our night,'" Burleigh said.

Scoring the second goal before regulation ended was vital to allowing the Gators to be ready for their next match against Georgia on Friday.

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"We needed to get that last goal so we didn't have to go into overtime, and I feel like overtime in this tournament is a big factor on everyone's bodies," Elliott said.

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