With 10 seconds on the clock, spectators at Donald R. Dizney Stadium rose to their feet and chanted. A 26-year stronghold of college soccer ticked away.
“Becky Burleigh'' filled the air.
The score symbolized a final gift for fans from head coach Burleigh.Florida’s 3-1 win against Georgia Southern Thursday night marked her last home game as she retires at the season’s end.
After two scoreless draws against ranked opponents, the side’s attack caught spectators’ eyes.
The team made two changes to the starting 11 from last Saturday as freshman Beatta Olssson returned to her starting spot up top and sophomore Ava Kuyken came into midfield for Cameron Hall, who served the first of a two-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
The Gators opened the score in the 17’ with a goal straight from the training ground. With a free kick just outside the 18-yard-box, Maddison Alexander and Parker Roberts lined up behind the ball. Alexander ran over the ball as Roberts played a short pass to Olsson. The freshman immediately hit a one-time flick toward Alexander, who scored her second goal of the season.
“That’s a tribute to Alan Kirkup,” Burleigh said. “He had been working with a small group to execute, and they did it to perfect.”
In the first half, sophomore Syd Kennedy and redshirt freshman Nicole Vernis started in their usual positions at left back and left midfield, respectively. Georgia Southern clearly showed that it wanted to play through this side of the pitch and funnel play to its right.
While Florida controlled the game from the opening whistle but the first changes came on the left side as senior Deanne Rose and freshman Tori Grambo replaced Kennedy and Vernis.
In the 32’, UF doubled its lead with a Grambo 22-yard banger. The freshman collected a pass from Rose and placed the ball in the bottom corner.
As the referee blew the whistle to signal the half, 17 shots lit up the scoreboard — the largest this season saw.
The Gators continued their dominance in the second half as 20 more shots came in the second 45.
Florida looked much more poised Thursday night than in previous matches. The team played more patiently and produced more horizontal passes and cross-field switches when it couldn’t penetrate GSU’s low block.
Georgia Southern made the game competitive in the 87’, as it grabbed a goal against the run of play and a missed clearance by the Florida backline.
Less than two minutes later, Roberts, who co-led Florida with 6 shots, ripped the ball from outside the box and got the better of goalkeeper Sallie Newton, who produced 16 saves.
Florida’s next game is March 14 in Orange Beach, Alabama. The Gators will face LSU in its first road match of the season.
Contact Myles Herbert at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @myles_herbert