Florida soccer’s first conference points of the season came with a bittersweet taste Sunday afternoon.
The Gators led Kentucky on the road for 46 minutes before a defensive miscue gave Wildcats’ freshman midfielder Madison Jones an open shot at the goal in the 80th minute. Florida was left stunned and couldn’t respond to the late equalizer.
With the 1-1 draw, the Gators (2-11-1, 0-6-1 SEC) snapped an eight-match losing streak but extended their winless skid to nine. Florida has not won a match since Sept. 1, when it beat South Florida 2-1 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
“Anytime you give up a lead late in the game, there’s disappointment,” Florida head coach Samantha Bohon said. “We created some good runs into the final third in the first half but missed on those final passes in front of goal.”
After a slow start for both teams, Florida took the initiative with high pressure and an organized offense. The Gators controlled the possession, sending several players on the attack but couldn’t materialize their chances.
Kentucky played clean defense, breaking up the Gators’ repetitive crosses and passes. Despite facing a tight formation, Florida kept the ball on the ground, moving from one side to the other, trying to find spaces in the Wildcats’ backfield.
The Gators' efforts finally found a breakthrough in the 34th minute. Junior midfielder Delaney Tauzel found the ball in the box after Kentucky defenders failed to clear a free-kick cross from junior midfielder Julianne Leskauskas.
In the second half, Kentucky took a more aggressive stance. The Wildcats copied UF’s first-half recipe, controlling the possession and sending shots at Florida junior goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg.
The Gators eventually settled down in the midfield, but Kentucky kept looking for a goal.
In the 70th minute, Wildcats forward Hannah Richardson had one the best chances of the match. The light rain, which had players falling like bowling pins during the second half, made the ball skip past the Florida defenders, giving Richardson a breakaway opportunity.
The senior fueled a powerful right-foot shot inside the box, but Goldberg deflected the ball before it ricocheted off the crossbar. Kentucky kept pressuring the Gators, and 10 minutes later, Jones found the back of the net after UF defenders struggled to clear the ball inside the box.
“Kentucky came out well out of halftime, and we didn’t do a good enough job of keeping it and exploiting the weak side,” Bohon said. “We let them dictate play too much.”
Florida desperately needs points as it sits last in the SEC standings. The Gators will look to improve their chances as they host Vanderbilt Thursday at 6 p.m. The match will stream on the SEC Network +.
Contact Jose Tovar at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.