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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Gators slip by Vols in double OT in SEC Soccer Tourney

The No. 1 seed cleared its first test, albeit in a heart-stopping fashion.

No. 10 Florida (15-4-2), the regular-season Southeastern Conference champion, needed a golden goal in double overtime to sneak past Tennessee (8-9-3) 1-0 in the first round of the conference tournament Wednesday.

The goal came after midfielder Erika Tymrak recovered a Tennessee clearance at the top of the Volunteers penalty box. Tymrak carried the ball to the right wing then, with three defenders marking her, the freshman crossed it to Lindsay Thompson on the left side of the penalty box.

From there, Thompson was able to put the ball in the upper-right corner of the goal in the 102nd minute.

"We'd been so close the whole game," Thompson said. "We were really taking it to them. To finally end the game felt amazing."

Thompson has been the go-to scorer for the Gators all year, and Wednesday marked the fifth time this season that she scored a goal to put UF ahead for good.

Coach Becky Burleigh said she thought the team had plenty of good opportunities, something the scoreboard did not reflect.

"(Tennessee) plays really hard, and they put a lot of pressure on you," Burleigh said. "We did a pretty good job of keeping our composure in that circumstance."

The Gators could have ended the game in the 81st minute, when Volunteers goalkeeper Molly Baird was caught out of position. After a Thompson pass, forward McKenzie Barney had a wide-open net to shoot at, but defender Ali Hall put her body in front of Barney and deflected the shot.

UF recorded its fifth-straight shutout, although UT had a few opportunities to score midway through the second half.

After Florida goalkeeper Katie Fraine tried to boot the ball deep, a UF player mishit a header, and Tennessee forward Emily Dowd carried the ball unmarked into the Gators' defensive third.

Fraine approached Dowd to cut off her angle at the goal, but Dowd was able to sneak the ball past Fraine. The shot slowly rolled toward the net but ultimately ended up wide to the left.

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"That was the scariest situation of the night," Fraine said.

Dowd, a Gainesville native, terrorized UF's back line again 10 minutes later, outhustling a Gators defender for the ball in the left corner and crossing it to forward Jayden Barrett.

Barrett had an open look at the left side of the goal but hit the ball awkwardly on the side of her foot, sending it wide left.

UF has one day off before playing South Carolina (16-3-1) Friday night. After such a long game Wednesday, Burleigh said the team will do pool workouts to rejuvenate before getting back on the pitch.

"That's the nature of this tournament," Burleigh said. "You're going to have to play hopefully three games that are really hard in a row."

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