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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Tymrak, Barney connect twice to lead UF to 4th straight SEC title

Right place, right time.

That was what forward McKenzie Barney attributed her late season surge to before No. 10 Florida's game against South Carolina, and that trend continued Friday.

Barney found herself unmarked in the 20th minute, and her header from four yards out gave the Gators a 1-0 lead.

UF never let South Carolina back into the game, winning 3-0.

Florida needed the win to clinch its fourth straight Southeastern Conference title.

"Our assistant coach Vic Campbell said it best when he said, 'There's a lot of teams that are in this position every year, but Florida is the constant,'" UF coach Becky Burleigh said.

Barney's go-ahead goal came after freshman Ericka Tymrak's high, soft shot hit the top crossbar. South Carolina goalkeeper Mollie Patton jumped for Tymrak's shot, and she was out of position when Barney corralled the rebound, giving the redshirt freshman a wide-open net.

"It came right to me," Barney said. "If I wouldn't have scored that, I don't know what I would've done."

Barney scored in an almost identical situation last week when she put a header in from five yards out.

The Barney-Tymrak connection also gave Florida its second goal in the 25th minute. Tymrak stole the ball from a Gamecocks defender in South Carolina's defensive third, and the Gators midfielder brought the ball into the penalty box.

With so much on the line, Burleigh said her team was too hyped-up for the game early, and Barney's goals helped calm the team's nerves.

"Everybody was really up for this game," Burliegh said. "I knew that was not going to be the issue. The issue was going to be whether or not we could settle down."

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Tymrak then sent a short cross to Barney, who strung together some sidesteps before firing a shot from seven yards out. The ball deflected off Patton and slowly rolled into the bottom right corner of the net.

UF's attack was less aggressive in the second half, but the play of the defense preserved the lead. With the exception of two free kicks in the game's first 35 minutes, the Gamecocks did not have any opportunities.

The win marked the Gators' third straight shutout.

"We're communicating a lot better, and that's why you're seeing a lot more zeroes on the board," said senior Lauren Hyde, who will end her career unfamiliar with the feeling of finishing the season below the top of the SEC.

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