With more underclassman than Miami had players, the Gators had a lot of opportunities for youth to shine in its 2010 season debut.
Fortunately for No. 11 Florida, one of its prized recruits did just that.
Forward Taylor Travis, a top-10 recruit and U.S. National Team pool player, had a dramatic first game as a Gator. She scored the game-winning goal in the 107th minute against Miami in overtime as UF (1-0-0) won the game 2-1 in the season opener at James G. Pressly Stadium Friday in front on nearly 2,000 people.
Late in the second overtime period the Gators pushed hard for a goal and had a beautiful combination play between sophomore midfielder Holly King, sophomore forward McKenzie Barney and Travis.
King whipped the ball into the box from the right sideline and Barney, who scored the Gators’ first goal of the season, one-timed a pass to Travis who was making a diagonal run across and blasted the shot into the back left corner.
“I’m high as a kite right now,” Travis said. “I don’t think I’ve screamed so loud in my life.”
She described the moment saying, “If you can think of the happiest thing that has ever happened to you or top-10. It’s that feeling and to be able to share that with the rest of the team is amazing.”
The freshman, one of 38 players on the largest UF roster ever, came on as the Gator’s first substitution midway through the first half and made her presence felt immediately creating several chances with sophomore Erika Tymrak.
“Not a bad debut for a freshman,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “It’s big that a freshman did that. She finished it with good composure. It was really well executed all the way around.”
The Hurricanes and Gators were knotted at zero at the half, but in the 49th minute Barney received a cross from the right wing and out-muscled her man, sliding a shot across the goal into the back of the net.
The Gator defense started the season with a new look without All-American Lauren Hyde. All-Southeastern Conference midfielder and forward Ashlee Elliott returned from the ACL injury she suffered last season and started the game as one of the Gators central defenders in place of the graduated Hyde.
Elliott was responsible for the Hurricanes’ lone goal, turning the ball over at the top of the box where Miami’s forward Blake Stockton intercepted the ball and scored unassisted.
The Gators possessed the ball for most of the game but had trouble giving Miami keeper Vikki Alonzo much trouble. Burleigh said the scoring would come once the team overcomes its lack of aggressiveness.
“We don’t need to weigh the games out,” she said. “We need to just be relentless and attack. Let the other team get back on its heels.”