Set pieces sunk the Gators in a seven-goal SEC thriller.
Vanderbilt midfielders Amber Nguyen and Abi Brighton both made the most of their free kicks, curling them past UF junior goalkeeper Alexa Goldberg.
The Vanderbilt Commodores (10-2-3, 4-2-2 SEC) beat the Florida Gators (2-12-1, 0-7-1 SEC) 5-2 Thursday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. The Commodores scored three of their goals in the opening 45 minute and never looked back.
Florida Head Coach Samantha Bohon said she was appreciative of her team’s efforts to keep fighting in the match despite conceding the early goals
“I think that bodes well for the mentality of this program,” Bohon said.
In the 12th minute, Vanderbilt midfielder Raegan Kelley took the match's first shot. She received the ball in the middle of the box, but her volley sailed over the goal.
After Kelley’s shot, Florida launched a counterattack which created an opportunity for senior forward Tessa Barton, but she committed a foul on a Vanderbilt defender while trying to control the ball in the box.
A set piece from Vanderbilt created the best chance of the match to that point for the Commodores. The Gators failed to mark defender Alex Wagner, who made a run into the box and shot the ball into the near post. Goldberg made a quick move to save the shot.
In the 20th minute and after drawing a corner, the Commodores scored first off of a second-chance shot. Goldberg punched the corner kick back into the box, and Vanderbilt midfielder Peyton Cutshall landed on the ball and hit it into the bottom right corner of the goal.
It didn’t take long for the Commodores to double their lead. In the 23rd minute, Nguyen took a well-hit free-kick which curled just under the crossbar and out of the reach of Goldberg’s outstretched arms.
The Gators got one back shortly after with a goal in the 28th minute. Sophomore midfielder Madison Young flew into the box to get her head on the corner kick from junior midfielder Delaney Tauzel.
Vanderbilt restored its two-goal lead in the 29th minute, however, with a header from Kelley off of a cross from midfielder Hannah McLaughlin. Goldberg was in a position to save the header, but she couldn’t get on it fast enough to stop it.
The Commodores went into halftime with a 3-1 lead after outshooting Florida six to one. UF increased its aggression on the ball but failed to create real chances in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Kelley grabbed her second goal of the match to push the Commodores' lead to 4-1. Nguyen hit a thru ball from the right side of the field, which drifted across the box to Kelley, who scored the goal near the left post.
Forward Addie Porter kept up Vanderbilt’s relentless attack, nearly scoring a fifth goal just minutes later. She landed on the ball at the left side of the box and almost snuck a shot past Goldberg.
Florida attempted to claw its way back into the match with a second goal off of a corner kick in the 71st minute. Young made it a brace by getting on the end of another corner from Tauzel. The header came from the left post and hit off the right post into the goal.
“Young just went and hunted after the ball,” Bohon said. “That's a really good mentality to have on set pieces.”
Bohon applauded Tauzel as well. Her corner kicks were put in a perfect place to allow the team to score, she said.
Two minutes later, the Commodores took back its three-goal lead with another free kick. Brighton’s hard-hit shot glided into the top right corner of the goal.
UF found chances but was dominated for the majority of the match by Vanderbilt. The Commodores outshot Florida 14 to five.
The Gators will look to bounce back in its final road match of the season against No. 3 Alabama Sunday at 7 p.m. The match will stream on SEC Network+.
Jackson Reyes is a UF journalism senior and The Alligator's Fall 2023 Sports Editor. He previously served as Digital Managing Editor and was a reporter and assistant editor on the sports desk. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and watching Bo Nix.