Maybe it was the long bus ride. Maybe it was the Mississippi State defense. Maybe it was the absence of two of its best players.
The Florida offense was a far cry from where it was in its previous two wins on Friday night in Starkville, Mississippi, for whatever reason. After scoring 10 goals combined against Kentucky and LSU, the Gators (4-6-2, 2-2-1 SEC) were held goalless for 110 minutes in a dull 0-0 draw.
“I don't know how you are supposed to feel about a tie,” Florida coach becky Burleigh said in a release. “It is a tough result because I feel like we really did what we came in here wanting to do, which is play our style of play.”
UF’s lack of scoring was not due to a lack of chances. The Gators took 20 shots on the night, their highest single-game total of the year. Mississippi State (8-2-1, 1-2-1) had 15.
Florida hit the crossbar twice in the match – Mayra Pelayo in the 16th minute and Cassidy Lindley, late in the second half, from 25-yards out. In addition, UF had a goal called off due to offsides in the fifth minute.
“We had so many chances,” Pelayo said in a release. “I think we need to be sharper in our execution but other than that, I'm really proud of the team."
UF goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese only had to make two saves on the night, but she came up big right after that offsides call. MSU’s MaKayla Waldner had an uncontested look on goal, but Marckese was able to make a brilliant save. It was the best chance of the game for the Bulldogs, and Marckese earned her third clean sheet of the season.
The Gators all-time record against Mississippi State fell to 15-2-2 with the tie.
This year’s Bulldogs squad is not the same one that UF has beat up on for all those years. MSU came in at No. 19 in TopDrawerSoccer.com’s poll, giving the program its first ever national ranking.
Florida was handicapped from the beginning on Friday, with regulars Deanne Rose and Georgia Eaton-Collins both away from the team – Rose with the Canadian National Team and Eaton-Collins with England.
The Gators will have almost a full week’s rest before they take on No. 12 Tennessee in Gainesville on Thursday.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior midfielder Mayra Pelayo hit the crossbar in the 16th minute of UF's 0-0 tie at Mississippi State. “I think we need to be sharper in our execution, but other than that, I'm really proud of the team," she said in a release.