Cassidy Lindley, Deanne Rose and Lauren Evans picked up the cooler full of ice and water while coach Becky Burleigh was speaking to the SEC Network for a post game interview. The three players lifted the cooler, took Burleigh’s headset off and gave her a celebratory shower.
Burleigh had just won the 500th game of her Florida career, the first female coach to achieve that in Division I soccer history.
“I told our team that’s just what happens when you’re around a long time,” Burleigh said. “That means you’re old.”
Entering last Thursday on a four-game losing streak, Florida’s soccer team finished the weekend on a two-game winning streak, putting its record back at .500 at 4-4. UF made this true when it defeated Miami 3-0 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium on Sunday.
The Gators dominated possession early. Seemingly everything was in Miami’s half of the field. The Hurricanes’ goalkeeper, sophomore Tyler Speaks, was tested often in the early going, as defender/midfielder Kit Loferski terrorized the left side of Miami’s defense.
Miami forward Dejah Cason played left back in this game and struggled to keep up with the speed of Loferski. She continuously got behind Cason and center back Mari Horpestad to play in winnable crosses.
“Kit (Loferski) had an amazing half,” forward Vanessa Kara said. “She just kept finding me in the box.”
The Hurricanes did get a few chances midway through the first frame, but they were sparse and futile. UF goalkeeper Susi Espinoza had a relaxing half relative to her usual busy days.
In the 27th minute, Florida midfielder Parker Roberts played a perfect through ball to forward Lindley. Lindley got there milliseconds before Speaks could and redirected the ball to the right side of the goal. Even with an empty net, her shot angle was unfavorable so she played a ground pass back towards the middle of the 18-yard box to midfielder Laney Steed.
Steed had what seemed like a guaranteed goal, but the Miami defense did just enough to recover at the last second to deflect the ball harmlessly out of play.
With one minute remaining in the first half, the Gators came close again off a corner kick. Roberts got a solid head on the play to the right of the 6-yard box. She played it back across into the middle for a favorable chance but no Gator was able to get anything on it. The Hurricanes booted it again to safety and to a scoreless halftime.
The second half was very similar to the first, except the Gators made the chances count.
At the 50-minute mark, UF finally broke the scoring seal. A corner kick from Roberts for the Gators got the ball back to Lindley at the top of the 18 where she ripped a shot to the right side of the goal and it slid just inside the post past Speaks. The shot from distance gave Florida a 1-0 advantage early in the second half.
“If I’m approaching the 18, I’m most likely going to shoot it,” Lindley said.
In the 62nd minute, UF struck again when Kara received a ball from Loferski on the right side of the 6-yard box, and Kara got a cleat to the ball before Speaks could get a glove to it. Kara softly rolled it into the right side of the goal and bumped the score to 2-0.
Six minutes later, Roberts got the second assist of the day when midfielder Sammie Betters had a terrible angle on the right side of the goal, but snuck the ball past Speaks to the back of the net anyway.
Twenty-two minutes later, the referee’s final whistle concluded a successful weekend for the Gators. The team will begin conference play on Thursday when it travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to play against LSU.
“Two shutouts, really important for us,” Burleigh said. “We really have to recover and get ready to go. You’re almost starting a brand new season.”
Follow Graham Marsh on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF. Contact him at [email protected].