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Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Slowly but surely: Florida soccer’s morale takes a turn for the better

Gators stand 0-1-1 after first week under new head coach Tony Amato

Fans sit in the stands of Donald R. Dizney Stadium before a game on Oct. 30, 2020, against Tennessee.
Fans sit in the stands of Donald R. Dizney Stadium before a game on Oct. 30, 2020, against Tennessee.

Florida soccer may not have a tally in the win column yet, but the confidence is still growing within the locker room as the young season matures.

The Gators started 2021 with an 0-1-1 record after their comeback draw against the Texas Longhorns Aug. 22, and leaders are starting to emerge for new head coach Tony Amato.

Amato is slowly settling in with his team as he discovers more about his arsenal stepping onto the pitch.

“I think the biggest thing is, we're all still figuring each other out, right?” Amato said. “We’ve trained like, 11 times and played a couple of games. I thought we saw today, like down a goal late in the game, our urgency grew.”

“It’s just hard to win college soccer games and you can talk about tactics all day long and passing and all these sorts of things but at the end of the day, you have to be able to fight back.”

Sophomore goaltender Alexa Goldberg is without a doubt the spark plug which ignited her team thus far after remarkable performances against both Texas and South Florida. The netminder racked up 20 saves in two matches played, many of which came at crucial points in the game. 

She made her clutchest save within the last 10 seconds of the overtime battle with the Longhorns. Texas midfielder Lexi Missimo beamed a desperate shot toward the top shelf for the win, but Goldberg made a miraculous leap to punch the ball over the crossbar and save the 1-1 draw.

The emergence of Goldberg was unforeseen, as the keeper only donned the gloves for the Gators a total of three times: her two starts this season and one forgetful performance last year against Missouri.

Offensive leaders like graduate midfielder Kit Loferski and redshirt forward Nicole Vernis have rose to the occasion to create chances which were scarce in the USF match. Loferski took two of Florida’s six shots compared to the Bulls’ 15 shots on goal.

Both Loferski and Vernis showed aggression on the defensive side of the ball and created their own chances via turnovers.

Florida has kinks in the system, but diamonds can only be formed with high pressure. The Gators’ season continues Thursday with a showdown against UCF. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Contact Jesse Richardson at Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352.

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