Florida seemed destined for defeat with just minutes left to play. Longhorn winger Holly Ward led a three-on-one counterattack in pursuit of Texas’ second goal to seal the match. Sophomore Florida keeper Alexa Goldberg had other plans. A stunning goal line save preserved the one goal deficit, and graduate forward Kit Loferski scored a late equalizer to draw the match level less than sixty seconds later.
Goldberg made her presence felt once more before the full time whistle blew with a fingertip save to preserve the 1-1 tie in the Gators’ home opener Sunday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Texas controlled early, retaining possession for long spells while it peppered the Florida defense. Goldberg made two acrobatic saves in the first ten minutes to keep the match level.
Florida quickly settled in and asserted itself as the more threatening of the two sides for the remainder of the first half.
Redshirt sophomore midfielder Nicole Vernis started from the attacking left of the Gators’ 4-2-3-1 system and quickly shone as one of Florida’s most dangerous players. Vernis tracked back to win possession often and created chances in transition.
“Getting her on the ball was really important for us in attack,” Amato said about Vernis’ impact in the system. “She did a good job.”
A flurry of substitutions came onto the pitch with ten minutes to play in the first half as Amato attempted to bring fresh legs into the match.
The blazing Florida sun played a significant factor in the result. Both teams were impacted by the unrelenting heat, and the pace of play slowed as the match progressed as they retreated to the locker room scoreless.
Texas drew first blood fifteen minutes into the second half when a Longhorns’ Carlee Allen header found the back of the net.
Ward caused problems for Florida down the side all match, beating defenders with her speed and deft first touch. Her assist on Allen’s goal put the Longhorns up 1-0.
With time winding down, Florida’s attack found new life behind Loferski and junior forward Kouri Peace. With three minutes to play, Loferski guided a curling left footed shot around Texas keeper Savannah Madden to tie the match.
Twenty minutes of overtime proved largely uneventful until the final seconds when Goldberg played the hero again with her final fingertip deflection.
“[Goldberg] played in one game last year,” Amato said. “To be honest it didn't go well, and she's been able to take that experience that sometimes crushes young goalkeepers and her mentality has been to learn and grow from that.”
Florida takes on UCF Thursday at 7 p.m. in the second match of a third-match home stand.
Contact Ryan Zehnder at email@example.com. and follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.