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Monday, June 17, 2024

From heartbreak to euphoria in a matter of seconds.

Stunned by a goal in the final minute of regulation, No. 6 Florida instantly regrouped and shocked No. 10 FSU in the opening seconds of overtime, scoring a golden goal to claim a 2-1 victory Friday in Tallahassee.

It took McKenzie Barney just 15 seconds to silence the FSU faithful in front of a raucous, capacity crowd of more than 2,000 at the Seminole Soccer Complex. 

“It was another Florida-Florida State thriller, just as we expected,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “It just showed great focus to come back after giving up a late goal.”

The Gators (6-0-0) overcame the demoralizing late goal by settling down before overtime and making sure they finished strong.

Barney, the team’s captain and eventual hero, said Burleigh told the team to take a deep breath and get the job done. Barney also spoke to the players, saying they had to believe in each other and know they would win the game.

On the opening kickoff in overtime, the Gators used a designed play that rarely works so perfect. The well-executed sequence took just four touches, including a remarkable cross by fullback Nicky Kit. She whipped the ball into the box, where Barney finished with a well-hit strike to the near post.

“It was a terrific finish in terms of the goal,” Burleigh said. “It was literally just like we drew up. Kickoff is a set piece for us. It was a beautiful serve, beautiful finish.”

The game lived up to expectations, as it was a barn-burner for all 91 minutes. FSU (4-2-0) wore black jerseys and its fans followed suit, creating a loud, intimidating environment for the visiting Gators.

Burleigh chose to start a more experienced group Friday night, inserting Sarah Chapman and Lindsay Thompson into the starting lineup. Burleigh said she decided to bring usual freshman starters Taylor Travis and Caroline Triglia off the bench after they were able to soak up the atmosphere and see the game progress.

After a scoreless first half, the Gators finally got on the board in the 62nd minute off a rebound goal by Erika Tymrak. It was her first goal of the season and was set up by a strong shot and buildup from Tahnai Annis.

The Gators continued to push forward following the goal, but the final 10 minutes were agonizing as they were forced to sit back and hold off the Seminoles’ relentless attack.

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UF’s offside trap wasn’t working and forced it into several late, unnecessary fouls. FSU was solid in its set pieces and eventually put one into the back of the net (89th minute) off an easy header from Janice Cayman.

“It wasn’t our strategy to sit back and try and hold on,” Burleigh said. “It’s never a good strategy and wasn’t something we were intentionally doing.”

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