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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Bulldogs too much for Gators, Florida loses 3-4 to extend skid

Georgia defeated Florida in Athens on Thursday behind Murguia’s brace

Florida forward Olivia Gonzalez kicks the ball in a game against Kentucky on Thursday.
Florida forward Olivia Gonzalez kicks the ball in a game against Kentucky on Thursday.

Georgia graduate forward Mollie Belisle cut into the box, tracking the elevated cross from her teammate Dani Murguia. With five minutes left on the clock, she jumped and headed the ball into the back of the net to give the Bulldogs the decisive goal of the match. 

Florida lost 4-3 to Georgia on Thursday in Athens, Georgia, and failed to worm further up the Southeastern Conference standings in a crucial fixture with the conference tournament looming. 

The Gators struggled to create chances against the Bulldogs and spent the majority of the first half defending. Florida’s inability to connect play through the midfield limited the time it spent in possession, and the chances on goal as a result. 

After a Murguia goal opened the scoring, Georgia continued its torrent pace. The Bulldogs created chances in the wide areas of the pitch and stretched the Florida defense out of position. Georgia’s efforts were rewarded when UF sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg fouled forward Tori Penn in the box, setting up a penalty kick to potentially double the Bulldogs’ advantage.

Forward Madison Haugen hesitated before she shot the spot kick, which sent Goldberg to the right before it passed into the bottom left corner to make it 2-0. 

At halftime, Florida had recorded just one shot to Georgia’s 12, the continuation of a disappointing trend for the Gators’ differential.

When play resumed, Murguia wasted no time grabbing her second goal of the match and her ninth of the year. Florida trailed 3-0 with 40 minutes to play and lacked the offensive spark needed to narrow the deficit —or so it seemed.

Against the run of play, graduate forward Madison Alexander scored a solo goal just inside the box to shrink the deficit to two goals. 

Alexander’s goal let Florida grow into the match, and the team found more success in possession. The Gators completed key passes and progressed the ball up the field for the first time all match.

With 30 minutes to play, UF graduate forward Kit Loferski picked up the ball in space. She passed to Riley Thompson, who took a single touch and finished. The deficit now lied at just one goal.

Minutes later, Cecily Stoute was shown a red card for a tackle on Loferski just outside the box. Sophomore midfielder Nicole Vernis scored the resulting free kick, levelling the match at 3 goals apiece for Florida after the Gators seemed on the verge of being shutout.

Despite Florida’s heroic effort to tie the match, Georgia tacked on Belisle’s header to retake the lead with minutes to spare. Time ran out, and the Bulldogs spoiled the Gators' miraculous comeback. 

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The Gators return home to host LSU on Sunday at noon. The game can be streamed live through SEC Network+.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at rzehnder@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.

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