Ole Miss forward Mo O'Connor embodies the phrase: Third time’s the charm.
When the Gators and the Rebels were tied at zero five minutes into the second half of their Thursday evening SEC matchup, the senior dispatched a powerful shot from outside the box that was deflected by UF junior goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg.
On the ensuing corner kick, O’Connor found the ball in the box and fueled a commanding header toward Goldberg. The goalie responded again. However, following Goldberg’s save, Florida defenders struggled to clear the ball from the box, giving O’Connor a chance to break the deadlock in the 51st minute.
O’Connor’s relentless effort proved vital in the Gators’ (2-7, 0-2) 1-0 loss to No. 13 Ole Miss (8-0-2) in Oxford, Mississippi, Thursday. With the defeat, Florida now extends its losing skid to four matches.
“You could think about all of the games and the backstories behind each of the games this season, and I think that's been a common thread,” said head coach Samantha Bohon about being competitive late in the matches. “While that's definitely encouraging, it's bittersweet because it makes you frustrated because you're that close to winning or tying the game.”
The Gators entered the match as the underdogs. Still, an analysis of the first half would tell otherwise. Florida frustrated the Rebels’ attacks with an organized defense and held the opposing strikers to only one shot on goal during the frame.
Goldberg, who finished the match with two saves, kept the Gators alive early after stopping a point-blank header by Ole Miss defender Riley Friesen in the 17th minute. The Gators allowed four corner kicks in the first half but managed to keep the score at zero.
Florida had a chance to get on the board in the 44th minute when freshman forward Erica Roberts sent a powerful right-foot shot near the box. Rebels’ goalkeeper Ashley Orkus, however, snagged the ball confidently to send the match into a halftime tie.
In the second half, Ole Miss relied on lengthy possessions and high pressure to find the breakthrough goal. O’Connor and senior defender Taylor Radecki, who registered the assist, stunned Florida only six minutes into the frame.
The Gators showed signs of life near the 75-minute mark with a pair of corner kicks and a long shot by redshirt freshman midfielder Oakley Rasmussen.
In the 83rd minute, UF junior midfielder Julianne Leskauskas nearly equalized the match with an elegant right-foot long shot from outside the box. Once again, Orkus made a monumental save to keep the Gators at bay.
Despite Florida's late efforts to tie the match, which included four shots on goal and four corner kicks in total, Ole Miss escaped with the victory. The Gators now turn their focus to a home matchup against Georgia Sunday.
The match is scheduled for noon and will air on ESPNU.
Contact Jose Tovar at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @jose___tovar.
Jose Tovar is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Florida specializing in sports and media. He has covered softball and soccer as a beat writer and aspires to work in the sports media industry.