After a midfield volley from junior midfielder Sarah Troccoli found the control of Briana Solis’ left foot just 20 yards from goal, she couldn’t help but notice the streak of a white jersey cutting across the middle of the box.
Redshirt sophomore Parker Roberts drove a ground-ball shot on her first touch into the right corner of the net for the go-ahead goal for the Gators.
“I saw Bri running down the sideline, and I just saw a huge gap in the middle,” Roberts said of her second goal of the season. “I knew we were going to win this game. I mean, we just had to.”
Syracuse was picked to finish 13th in the ACC by a preseason coaches poll. That didn’t seem to matter on the pitch at Donald R. Dizney Stadium on Sunday as the Gators had to fight their way to a 2-1 victory over the Orange.
On Friday, the Gators stole the match from the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal. An 82nd-minute needle-threading pass from one junior midfielder to another resulted in a curling shot that landed squarely in the corner of Stanford’s net. The Gators rode momentum from the crowd to a huge win.
Against Syracuse however, the Gators’ magic had lost its panache. Florida had to get creative and perhaps a little lucky to put balls in the net. Head coach Becky Burleigh credited the resiliency of her team to bounce back from an emotional game to snag the victory.
“I think part of it is physical,” Burleigh said. “It’s a really short turnaround in our sport. But part of it is just the emotional and mental side of it, finding ways to fight human nature to kind of just take a little bit of a step back.”
In the eighth minute, on a Gator corner kick from the far sideline, Syracuse defender Shannon Aviza was called for a handball during a scrum in the 18-yard box. Gator captain Gabby Seiler buried the resulting penalty kick in the lower left corner of the Orange’s net for an early 1-0 UF lead.
After Syracuse tied the match on a lightly hit ball in the 25th minute, Florida looked out of sorts - the Gators began misplaying passes in the attacking third of the field and allowing Syracuse counterattacks.
“We had a lot of opportunities early that we didn’t put away,” Burleigh said.
After halftime, Burleigh’s adjustments became apparent. The Gators began putting together sustained possessions in Syracuse’s half of the pitch, which resulted in the run of play that led to Roberts’ goal.
“We just talked about keeping the ball, playing two-touch, trying to connect five passes,” Burleigh said. “A lot of times, our offense is our best defense.”
As for UF’s defense, Syracuse could not mount any serious offensive threats until about 10 minutes remained in the game. Even then, it was too close for comfort for Burleigh.
“Late in the second half when they had a couple of opportunities, it was more us kind of standing off with them a little too much,” Burleigh said. “Almost being too passive.”
The Gators now travel out west to take part in the Husky/Nike Invitational in Washington where they’ll face the University of Washington on Friday. Florida will follow that game with a match against Portland on Sunday.
You can follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin, and contact him at email@example.com.
Parker Roberts dribbles the ball during Florida's 2-1 win against Syracuse on August 27, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.