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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Gators end regular season with loss, claim playoff berth

Florida inches to SEC playoff spot despite loss to South Carolina

Florida's Madison Alexander dribbles with the ball during a game against Kentucky on Sept. 23
Florida's Madison Alexander dribbles with the ball during a game against Kentucky on Sept. 23

As the game clock hit zero on Thursday, the clock struck midnight on the Florida Gators regular season.

Florida hosted the South Carolina Gamecocks at Donald R. Dizney Stadium with hopes set on gaining a playoff berth in the conference tournament with a victory. The Gators sat in a tie for 10th place heading into the match, and only the top-10 SEC teams earn the chance to participate in the tournament.

But initial hopes were stomped upon by the Gamecocks, who rallied to a 2-1 victory to end Florida’s season with a loss. 

Although the Gators lost, the team kept close track of the results of the Texas A&M and Missouri matchup, hoping for the Aggies to drop its regular season finale. Florida’s wish came true, and the Gators will participate in the SEC tournament.

Florida head coach Tony Amato felt for his players after the noteworthy performance, despite a loss.

“I'm gutted for our players, because I thought they did a lot in the game,” Amato said. “The result could have been different. And we just didn't make it happen tonight.

“But overall, you know, if we just look at the game tonight, and you're only focused on the performance, we were pleased with how we played.”

Forward Madison Alexander recorded her second goal in the past two matches during the 17th minute. Kit Loferski recorded an assist after a rainbow connection from outside the box. The score was reminiscent of Alexander’s goal on Sunday, where a similar pass was made.

South Carolina rallied back 15 minutes later with a pinball shot off the right post from graduate Ryan Gareis. The forward weaved her way through the Florida defense like a needle and found a way to kick the shot.

After a scoring drought through halftime, Gamecocks’ sophomore Catherine Barry tallied a goal off her right-foot to break the deadlock and give her team a 2-1 lead in the 76th minute. Midfielder Claire Griffiths recorded her second assist of the night after a cross from inside the goal area.

Sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg kept the Gators within fingertips of a victory with two saves on 10 shots, but South Carolina pierced the Florida defense just enough to notch a game-winning goal. 

Florida will kick off the SEC conference tournament against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Sunday. The match from Orange Beach, Alabama begins at 2 p.m. and will broadcast on the SEC Network.

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Contact Jesse Richardson at Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352.

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