The Florida Gators’ sideline stormed onto the field when time ran out, cheering and shouting as subs greeted the players on the pitch. A Vanderbilt player sat defeated on the grass, weeping into her shirt as the Commodores’ SEC Tournament appearance came to an end Tuesday night.
Florida goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese looked Auburn forward Rocio Sanders in the eye like a box…
The Gators, who just barely slipped into the tournament, defeated Vanderbilt 1-0 at the Orange Beach Sportsplex in Orange Beach, Alabama. UF will advance to the semifinals and play Arkansas while No. 1-seed Vanderbilt will head back to Nashville.
It didn’t take long for Florida to strike first. It was only the 7th minute when forward Lais Araujo crossed the ball to the center of the Commodores’ box. Forward Madison Alexander was lying in wait, and she beat two defenders to float the ball into the goal to put the Gators up 1-0.
The match was closely contested throughout both halves. Both UF and Vanderbilt took 11 shots, but Florida was just more efficient with five shots on goal to Vanderbilt’s four. Florida also played a cleaner game, but only marginally, tallying seven fouls across the match to the Commodores’ 11.
Aside from the game-deciding goal early on from Alexander, both goalkeepers played well defensively. Florida goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese, who broke the school record for shutouts in her game against Arkansas a week ago, notched four saves across the night, a statistic matched by Vanderbilt keeper Lauren Demarchi.
Marckese played aggressive defense. She came out to meet crosses well outside the 18-yard box and routinely cut off defenders to make leaping catches.
Despite the close play between the two teams, it was the Gators who came out on top, getting perhaps the ultimate revenge on a Vanderbilt team that bested them 2-1 earlier in the season.
The team continues to defy the odds as statistically one of the worst teams in the tournament. Florida will have to win the SEC Tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Marckese asserted after the upset win that Florida’s sudden improvement in play is simply the result of necessity.
“We know everything is on the line, and there’s nothing to do when your back’s against the wall except push,” she said.
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells or contact him at [email protected].