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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Gators advance to Sweet 16 after double-overtime thriller against Wisconsin

<p>UF forward Brooke Sharp shoots during Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&amp;M on Sept. 10, 2015 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

UF forward Brooke Sharp shoots during Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 10, 2015 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

The golden goal came with less than four minutes in double overtime.

Senior Meggie Dougherty Howard sent a ball to Brooke Sharp in front of the box, who kicked the ball into the left side of the net, out of the reach of Wisconsin goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem.

With that shot, the No. 1 seed Gators advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year, defeating the Badgers 3-2 on Friday night.

But the ending wasn’t the only dramatic part of the game.

After a scoreless first half, both the Badgers and the Gators came out aggressive in the second half.

Florida and Wisconsin both traded penalty kicks before Dani Rhodes put the Badgers up 2-1 with less than 14 minutes left in regulation.

With their season on the line, the Gators didn’t lose their composure.

Dougherty Howard, who scored a penalty kick earlier in the game, sent a corner kick in front of a crowded box and the ball bounced off a Badger defender and into the back of the net for an own goal in the 78th minute.

“It’s never really a good feeling to go down, but I think that’s something that our team has been through before,” senior forward Savannah Jordan. “I don’t think anyone was shook-up or nervous or chaotic. We still stuck to our gameplan, passed the ball, did what we were good at. And it came for us.”

That was the last goal in regulation, and when overtime came and went without a goal, the Badgers and Gators headed to double overtime.

In the first four minutes, Sarah Troccoli and Savannah Jordan both got good looks, but both of their shots were blocked.

In the 107th minute, Mayra Pelayo found Dougherty Howard who played the ball in front of Sharp for the game winner.

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“It was just a great sequence,” Sharp said. “When I saw Meggie out wide I knew it was going to be a good ball. So I screamed for it and placed it in.”

It was Sharp's second game-winning goal in the last three games. The other came in the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Nov. 6, where her goal sealed the Gators’ victory in overtime.

“It’s a really cool feeling, and it’s funny because Meggie played both of those balls,” Sharp said. “So just whenever Meggie gets the ball I know it's going to be good. I know just to sprint to the box.”

The Gators will now host Auburn in the Sweet 16 at 2 p.m. on Sunday. In the regular-season the Tigers shutout Florida 3-0 in Auburn, and Florida is excited about the possibility of avenging the loss.

“I had kind of a feeling that we might be playing them again at some point,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “Our team is pretty excited for that rematch. I think we didn’t necessarily play our best the first time we played them, so it is nice to have a do-over.”

Contact Lauren Staff at lstaff@alligator.org or follow her on Twitter at @lstaff27.

UF forward Brooke Sharp shoots during Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 10, 2015 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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