Soccer

Forward Kouri Peace joined the same post-game circle her team forms after every game. Over the loudspeaker at the stadium, the song “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida came on. 

The freshman could not help but dance.

She shimmied her shoulders back and forth as her teammates smiled back at her in laughter. The victory dance followed a match that put Peace on the scoring sheet for the second time this season and the Gators in the win column for the 10th time. 

Florida’s soccer team clawed back after a slow start to top Auburn 2-1 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium on Friday night, marking its sixth SEC victory of the season.

The first gasp of the crowd came when Auburn (6-7-2, 3-4 SEC) forward Jessie Gerow had an opportunity to put the Tigers ahead early. She was one-on-one against goalkeeper Susi Espinoza just outside of the 6-yard box to the left side of the post. She struck the ball with her left foot and appeared for an instant to have Espinoza beat, until the redshirt junior reached her own left foot out and got just enough cleat on it to deflect the ball to safety. 

The scoring seal broke 16 minutes into the match when Auburn midfielder Angeline Daly briefly lost possession toward the right side of the top of the 18-yard box, but then gained it back. With no Gators other than Espinoza between her and the goal, she took advantage of the favorable angle and catered to her dominant right foot, ripping a shot to the upper right corner of the net and in. The goal gave Auburn some early momentum and the 1-0 lead.

“It was a good ball from them, I can tell you that,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “Credit to them for the execution of that first goal.”

That narrative flipped in the 37th minute of play. Florida (10-5, 6-1 SEC) midfielder Carina Baltrip-Reyes had the ball on the left wing and fought through multiple Tiger legs to squeeze a ground-ball across the 18-yard box to reach Peace. The freshman jumped in front of the final Auburn defender, who stood just beyond the 6-yard box and curled a shot into the middle of the goal past Kate Hart to tie it back up at 1-1. 

A match that commenced with the Tigers controlling most of the possession and earning the better chances looked entirely different by the referee’s 45-minute whistle. 

That trend continued three minutes into the second half. 

In the 48th minute, Cassidy Lindley sprinted toward the middle of Auburn’s side of the field. She made a sharp touch with the outside of her right foot away from the goal to draw a defender in and then placed a perfect through-ball to Roberts. 

She arrived at the ball before Hart did and finished the play with a tap past the goalkeeper, giving Florida its first lead of the game.

“I don’t get a lot of time up there (in the 18-yard box) so I was like, ‘Oh, I’m up pretty high right now,’” Roberts said. “I just saw Cass (Lindley) dribbling, and I saw a gap so I just ran, whether I got the ball or not I didn’t care.” 

The rest of the match was a back and forth affair of empty chances from both sides. When the final whistle sounded, the scoreline still read 2-1.

“I thought our team was really resilient,” Burleigh said. “You could just tell the attitude of our team was like, ‘Alright, let’s just go,’ and I think that sort of set the tone for what happened after that.” 

Follow Graham Marsh on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF. Contact him at [email protected]