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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Unlike Friday night, the Gators didn’t need any magic.

Finishing some well-timed second-half opportunities, No.11 Florida defeated No.25 Central Florida 2-0 Sunday evening at UCF’s Track and Soccer Complex.

The Gators (2-0-0) dominated the early moments of the second half, scoring two goals within six minutes of each other, both by junior attacker Tahnai Annis.

In the 48th minute, a defensive error turned into a fortuitous opportunity as Annis collected a miss-cleared header just outside the six-yard box and ripped a shot near post.

The goal ended the Gators drought of missed chances. In the first half, Florida had multiple shots but struggled either keeping the ball on frame or maintaining possession despite UCF being content to play on its heels. The Gators seemed frustrated in the first half, failing to take the lead.

At halftime, coach Becky Burleigh gave her team words of encouragement, telling them to keep pushing forward.

“I told them to take it to them,” she said. “They just kept dropping deeper and deeper…Annis came through.”

Central Florida (0-0-1), the defending Conference USA Champions, gave Florida several scares in the first half, but sophomore defensive anchor Kathryn Williamson came up huge with several crucial challenges. 

“She is such a strong defender,” goalkeeper Katie Fraine said. “She saved us a couple of times. That one block she had was just phenomenal. She chased a girl down from 30 yards and came in with a great clean tackle.”

The Gators second goal (52nd minute) came on a counter attack and was beautifully set up by sophomore Erika Tymrak. Streaking down the middle of the pitch, Tymrak received a ball from sophomore captain McKenzie Barney and slipped a pass to Annis, who was making a diagonal run across from the left and scored with a sliding finish.

“Erika played in a great straight ball because I was already making the run,” Annis said. “I knew that if I tried to take another touch on it, that wouldn’t work out because the defender was right on me.”

The two goals were the 16th and 17th goals of Annis’ career at UF.

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The win moved the Gators to 2-0 on the young season as Florida defeated the Miami Hurricanes 2-1 in overtime Friday night in its home opener.

Freshman sensation Taylor Travis, a U.S. national team pool player, had a phenomenal debut, scoring the golden goal in the 107th minute of the second overtime period.

Late in extra time, the Gators pushed hard for a goal and had a beautiful combination play between sophomore midfielder Holly King, 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.

“Not a bad debut for a freshman,” 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.”

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