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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Sixth time’s the charm, Gators earn season’s first win at FGCU

Gonzalez’ game-winner secures a 1-0 Florida win in Fort Myers

<p>Alivia Gonzalez, pictured during her sophomore year, scored the game-winning goal Sunday afternoon versus Florida Gulf Coast University. </p>

Alivia Gonzalez, pictured during her sophomore year, scored the game-winning goal Sunday afternoon versus Florida Gulf Coast University.

Conditions were unfavorable as Florida entered its sixth game of the season still in search of head coach Tony Amato’s first win. Intermittent rain hampered the Gator attack early on, but when the sun finally emerged from behind the clouds in Fort Myers, Florida rose to the occasion.

Early in the second half, sophomore midfielder Nicole Vernis received the ball in space, and after feigning a shot, she passed to junior forward Alivia Gonzalez. Two Eagle defenders closed her down, but Gonzalez used what little space she had to guide a shot into the bottom right corner and past Krusinski into the goal. 

Gonzalez’s goal helped the Gators prevail against Florida Gulf Coast, earning a 1-0 victory behind Gonzalez’s inch-perfect goal Sunday afternoon at Pickering Field in Fort Myers, Florida.

A rain-soaked opening five minutes forced the squads into a lengthy delay. Play was halted for 90 minutes as lightning blanketed the field. By 2:30 p.m., playable conditions returned, and the Gators and Eagles slogged to a scoreless first half beneath drizzles and relatively sunny skies.

Graduate forward Madison Alexander highlighted in an otherwise uneventful first half. She recorded three shots and contributed to Florida’s attack with effective hold-up play and incisive passing.

Almost three hours after the match’s scheduled start, the sun finally emerged from behind the cloud cover. Florida’s offense, which struggled to create chances under the difficult conditions in the first half, came alive after the rain subsided. 

The Gators started the second half on the front foot, forcing Eagles goalkeeper Mia Krusinski into three saves to deny them a goal. 

Gonzalez’ goal finally broke the deadlock after a sustained period of pressure by the Gators.

Florida was thirty minutes away from their season’s first win. 

The Gators were content to sit back and play counter-attacking soccer for the remainder of the match. Their combination of off-ball pressure and direct assault when in possession proved effective in preserving the one-goal lead. 

The Eagles struggled to break down Florida’s defense throughout and sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg enjoyed a relatively calm afternoon. Goldberg’s fourth save of the match was her most decisive, a diving effort to preserve the Florida lead with mere minutes to play.

The team’s efforts all season had finally been realized, six matches into Amato’s tenure.

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Florida takes on North Carolina on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. in its final match before conference play. The Gators return to Donald R. Dizney stadium in Gainesville for their date with the Tar Heels. The game can also be streamed through ESPN+.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at Follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.

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