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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Florida soccer celebrates Senior Day, thumps Arkansas

<p>UF defender Claire Falknor smiles with fellow senior Christen Westphal following the final regular-season home game of their UF careers.</p>

UF defender Claire Falknor smiles with fellow senior Christen Westphal following the final regular-season home game of their UF careers.

It seemed as if two different teams showed up to play for Florida on Sunday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

On Senior Day, No. 8 Florida went on a second half scoring flurry en route to a 4-0 win against Arkansas to end the team’s home regular season schedule.

The team that played the first 45 minutes failed to score and mustered just four shots compared to the three that Arkansas produced.

But in the second half, the Gators played with the energy that was missing in the opening segment.

Less than one minute into the game’s latter half, junior forward Brooke Sharp tapped in a pass from Meggie Dougherty Howard from three yards out to get the Gators (13-3-1, 7-2-1 Southeastern Conference) onto the scoreboard.

The goal — taking place 57 seconds into the second half — was the fastest goal Florida has scored entering a half this season.

The tiebreaker was Sharp’s 10th goal of the season, marking the 11th season in the program’s history that has produced two double-digit goal scorers.

Once they got on the scoreboard, the Gators opened the floodgates on an Arkansas (5-11-1, 1-8-1 SEC) team that seemed to have UF’s number in the first half.

"Once we got that first goal, we know we could kind of settle in," junior forward Savannah Jordan said.

Ten minutes after Sharp’s goal, Jordan headed a Christen Westphal corner into the back of the net to give the Gators a 2-0 lead.

The goal marked the 10th assist for Westphal, as well as the fifth time the duo have connected for a goal and assist this season.

"(Jordan is) such a presence in the box," Westphal said.

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"When I’m playing (the ball), honestly I’m trying to find her every single time."

Florida’s final two daggers were scored in a span of 31 seconds.

The first goal, in the 72nd minute, was built up by a long throw from freshman goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese to Briana Solis.

The freshman midfielder then sprinted down the right side of the field all the way into the Razorbacks’ box, where she launched a shot past goalie Jordan Harris for her first collegiate goal.

"Once I scored, they’re like ‘I love you’," Solis said of the seniors congratulating her following the goal. "It was just an awesome experience making them proud of me."

Marckese became the third UF goalkeeper to ever record an assist, with Taylor Burke and Brittni Goodwin having done so during their collegiate careers.

Just moments later, Jordan scored on a pass from junior midfielder Betsy Middleton to post her second goal of the night, as well as extend the Gators’ lead to 4-0.

Coach Becky Burleigh credited assistant coach Alan Kirkup in helping spark Florida’s offensive surge in the second half.

"Alan talked about committing more numbers to the box," Burleigh said. "That made a big difference."

As the final seconds counted down, Burleigh was relieved to finally see a "0" next to an SEC opponent’s name when the final whistle was blown.

Sunday night’s result gave Florida its first conference shutout of the season, after having squandered clean sheet opportunities to last minute goals in two of the past three games.

"It was a shutout," Burleigh said. "I’m so excited we got a shutout."

Follow Kyle Brutman on Twitter @KBrut13

UF defender Claire Falknor smiles with fellow senior Christen Westphal following the final regular-season home game of their UF careers.

Led by senior defenders Christen Westphal and Claire Falknor (shown above) and junior forward Savannah Jordan, the Florida soccer team took home the SEC regular-season and tournament titles this year. Here are our gamers for those two occasions, with the regular-season title story coming from Ryan Summers ( and the tournament title game story coming from Kyle Brutman (

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