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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

UF’s defense stymies Florida Atlantic in shutout

<p>UF midfielders Meggie Dougherty Howard (28) and Mayra Pelayo celebrate after Pelayo scores the first goal in Florida's 5-2 win against Iowa State on Aug. 19, 2016, at James G. Pressly Stadium.</p>

UF midfielders Meggie Dougherty Howard (28) and Mayra Pelayo celebrate after Pelayo scores the first goal in Florida's 5-2 win against Iowa State on Aug. 19, 2016, at James G. Pressly Stadium.

One of the biggest uncertainties facing the 2016 Florida soccer team this offseason was how it would fare defensively following the loss of All-American defenders Christen Westphal and Claire Falknor to graduation.

The answer to that question became slightly clearer on Sunday afternoon, as No. 7 UF defeated unranked FAU 3-0 at James G. Pressly Stadium for its first shutout of the young season.

The Gators (2-0) limited the Owls (1-1) to a total of three shots throughout the contest, an improvement over the six shots and two goals they conceded on Friday night against Iowa State.

Furthermore, Florida didn’t allow a single shot on goal in the second half, something coach Becky Burleigh demanded of her team during the match’s intermission.

“The second half we wanted to have no looks from them whatsoever and no offensive presence from them,” Burleigh said. “I think we accomplished that, so that was a real positive for us.”

UF went with the same backline for the second consecutive contest, starting redshirt senior Erika Nelson, redshirt junior Kristen Cardano, sophomore Sara Wilson and freshman Julia Lester.

Sophomore goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese earned her sixth career shutout and 16th career win. The St. Petersburg native was only required to make one save all match, praising her teammates gritty defensive effort following the victory.

“(Westphal and Falknor) held it down for a long time," Marckese said, "but we’ve definitely had a lot of freshman and some transfers come in … and step up into that position for us and help us out, so now we have a lot of options."

Offensively, the Gators netted all three of their goals in the first half. Sophomore Melanie Monteagudo scored in the 24th minute off an assist from senior Savannah Jordan.

Five minutes later, Jordan was fouled in the penalty box by FAU’s Alex Mason, earning Florida a penalty kick that was converted by senior Meggie Dougherty Howard.

Jordan finished the half with another penalty shot with four seconds remaining after she was run into by Owls’ goalkeeper Sydney Drinkwater.

Drinkwater received a red card on the play, forcing backup goalie Jennifer Ocampo to take over in net. Ocampo blocked Jordan’s initial penalty kick, but the three-time All-American was able to corral the rebound and score as time expired.

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Jordan’s goal was the 67th of her career, moving her past Danielle Fotopoulos into third place on UF’s all-time scoring list.

“It’s amazing to always have an accomplishment like that,” Jordan said. “To be compared to any of the great players who played here is always amazing and a great honor. My teammates have done an excellent job over the past four years … so I couldn’t do it without them. It’s a great honor moving forward.”

Florida begins a stretch of six road matches next weekend when the team travels to California. The Gators will face No. 5 Stanford on Friday at 11 p.m. and unranked UCLA on Sunday at 6 p.m.

“Obviously two really good teams,” Burleigh said. “We’re looking forward to our first road trip, so that’s a little bit different for everybody too. I’m excited about it.”

 Contact Dylan Dixon at ddixon@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon

UF midfielders Meggie Dougherty Howard (28) and Mayra Pelayo celebrate after Pelayo scores the first goal in Florida's 5-2 win against Iowa State on Aug. 19, 2016, at James G. Pressly Stadium.

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