Florida soccer made its 2021 debut on Thursday night but the Gators will return home empty-handed after a 2-1 loss to No. 20 South Florida Bulls.
UF entered the match leading the all-time series against USF 6-1-2, but the defending AAC champions outmatched Florida on both sides of the ball to garner its first win of the season.
South Florida controlled the ball for most of the match and pounded 15 shots on goal to lay the pressure on Gators sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg. The sophomore stood her ground against the never-ending shots and came away with 13 saves, the second-most in a single game in school history.
Goldberg acknowledged her feat but understands there’s still work to be done.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously you don't want to be having to make 13 saves in the game,” Goldberg said. “But I think, even with all the saves I make, the way our defense played was full of heart...it's a clear foundation that we've set for ourselves tonight and I believe that next time we see USF it'll be a different story.”
The Gators failed to advance the ball onto their half of the field and only placed four shots on goal. The team struggled defensively to keep the opposition at bay and committed nine fouls, but USF was just as guilty with eight of their own and two yellow cards.
South Florida started the scoring with an unassisted goal by forward Chloe Zamiela in the 39th minute. She maneuvered around the Florida defense outside the penalty box and curved a shot past Goldberg into the right corner of the net.
Gators graduate transfer forward Kit Loferski scored an equalizer for the Gators in the next half after controlling the forward pass from junior midfielder Syd Kennedy. The shot lasered over Bulls goalie Sydney Martinez and into the back right corner.
The celebration for the Gators was cut short three minutes later when Bulls midfielder Paula Leblic and forward Sydny Nasello passed the ball up the field and crossed to forward Madeleine Penman-Derstine for the tap-in finish.
Kennedy almost scored a second equalizer on a free kick after USF defender Chyanne Dennis was called for a handball just outside the penalty box. Kennedy’s shot carried too much power and rainbowed over the crossbar, dampening the Gators’ comeback hopes.
USF fended off all of the Gators’ further last-ditch efforts until the final whistle was blown and Florida officially started the season with a 0-1-0 record.
On Sunday afternoon, Florida will return home to Gainesville to redeem the loss with its first-ever meeting with the Texas Longhorns. The match at Donald R. Dizney stadium will begin at noon and broadcasted on the SEC Network
Contact Jesse Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352.