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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
<p>Hannah Mardiney</p>

Hannah Mardiney

It was a slow and methodical breakdown, Saturday against Loyola Maryland.

In the past two weeks, Florida would have answers to each of their opponents’ scores, but the No. 3 Gators couldn’t outpace the No. 10 Greyhounds.

Like with its first two games, UF (2-1) conceded the first goal. But it wasn’t until nearly five minutes in, down 2-0, that Shannon Kavanagh responded, scoring her 13th goal of the season. Less than a minute later, the Greyhounds’ Sam Fiedler got her fifth this year. Twice more the two teams traded blows, but back-to-back Elli Kluegel scores opened the tap for Loyola.

It wasn’t quick, as it took three minutes for the Greyhounds (3-0) to push their lead from two to five points. When progressing on offense, ball carriers methodically found an open player, taking extra time to find the one Florida defender who missed a read. Off the ball, attackers repeatedly found ways to cut toward the crease, creating multiple options to score.

And if each goal applied pressure, Florida’s 26 fouls catalyzed their frustrations. Frustration led to forced passes, in the hopes that a connection through a tight window would salvage the game. That frustration spread throughout the UF fans in attendance like a virus, leading to vocal outcries each time a warranted call was missed or a Gator was booked.

Florida had the same amount of fouls against Maryland — they had half against Colorado.

Coach Amanda O’Leary is aware of the team’s propensity to commit fouls, and it’s something she wants to work on. That includes emphasizing the team’s ability to drive to the goal; her effort to reduce scoring lapses and ease the pressure off midfielders Kavanagh and Brianna Harris, who have combined for 24 goals this season.

Kavanagh, with her two goals and nine draw controls, didn’t wilt under pressure, but the team suffered omit lapses of production that resulted in allowing six unanswered goals following halftime.

For its effort, the team did not stop trying to take the game back, Harris’ second goal with 58 seconds left illustrated their desire to cling to hope. But the mistakes they made early created an insurmountable wall to climb.

With a mid-week game against Kennesaw State, Florida has an opportunity to iron out its flaws. For casual fans, what appears to be a meaningless game could prove to be important for a young team that’s still experiencing growing pains.

“Everybody needs to be confident enough to go to the goal cage,” O’Leary said. “(There are) A lot of games left. That’s a huge benefit. It gives us an opportunity to look at the deficiencies we had today.”

Follow Christian on Twitter @unofficialchris and contact him at cortega@alligator.org.

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Editor's note: an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Florida played Towson on Wednesday. The Gators played Kennesaw State.

Hannah Mardiney

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