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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Outgunned: Florida’s shot struggles holds team back

Outshot on both sides, the unranked Gators need a quick turnaround before the conference tournament

Florida sophomore Anna DeLeon kicks a ball during the Gators' Sept. 23 game against Kentucky.
Florida sophomore Anna DeLeon kicks a ball during the Gators' Sept. 23 game against Kentucky.

Standing patiently on her side of the pitch, Auburn goalkeeper Maddie Prohaska awaited the first shot attempt from a lackluster Florida offense. The first half ticked by, second by second, but the shot never came.

It wasn’t until the 60 minute mark when redshirt sophomore Nicole Vernis finally found a crack in the Auburn defense to bend the first shot toward the net. The ball fell comfortably into Prohaska’s gloves.

Vernis’ effort was Florida’s only shot on goal of the match.

The uninspiring performance by the Gators offense on Sunday offered just a small sample size of how the team has failed to produce goals this season.

After beginning conference play with two wins and a draw, the Gators appeared prepared for the difficult SEC schedule that lay ahead of them. 

Florida has lost four matches in a row and has been held scoreless three times since an emphatic away win versus Mississippi State on Sept. 26.

With just three matches remaining in the regular season, Florida’s offensive woes remain its primary impediment to consistent success. The Gators have failed to score in seven of their 15 matches this season. 

Florida has struggled to not only create enough quality chances, but overall chances in general.

The Gators average just 8.7 shots a match to their opponents’ 17. Of these chances, roughly 46% are on target, meaning they force the goalkeeper to make a save less than half the time. So, all it takes for an opposing keeper to hold Florida scoreless on an average afternoon is about four saves.

Teams can skate by on a few shots per game when the key chances are converted into goals, but Florida has shown a lack of killer instinct this season. 

Despite defensive improvements within the last month, its backlines have failed to consistently prevent an opponent from using UF as a turnstile. Over the past four games, opponents racked up 72 shots within the goal area, which translated to eight total goals. Two of the scores coming from the 2-0 shutout loss against Auburn. 

Sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg slid and dove from post-to-post, but she can’t be The Flash and defend everywhere at once.

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The SEC championship tournament is on the horizon, and only the top 10 squads in the conference will qualify to participate in Orange Beach, Alabama. The result on Sunday places the Gators in a tie for ninth with three matches left to play.

Florida will hit the road again in an effort to get the wheels rolling on the right track with a trip to face the Georgia Bulldogs. 

Contact Jesse Richardson at Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352. 

Contact Ryan Zehnder at Follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.

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