Mayra Pelayo

Mayra Pelayo runs with the ball during Florida's 2-1 win against Syracuse on August 27, 2017, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Pelayo scored the only goal of the game on Saturday against Ole Miss.

Melanie Monteagudo lost her defender with a quick turn towards the goal line. She delivered a cross into the middle of Mississippi box that found Mayra Pelayo’s left foot seven yards from goal. The junior midfielder found the back of the net just five minutes into play, scoring her first goal of the season.

Pelayo’s goal was the first and only of the match, as No. 7 Florida (6-1) defeated No. 24 Mississippi (7-1-1), 1-0, in its first match since Hurricane Irma on Thursday. The Gators met the Rebels at home in its first of nine SEC matchups.  

Monteagudo and Pelayo led a UF side that dominated Ole Miss more than the score reflected.

The Gators completely controlled the first half, outshooting the Rebels 5-1. They exploited the width of the pitch and created the bulk of the half’s offense with six corner kicks and countless horizontal crosses deep in Rebel territory.

Just 12 minutes after opening the scoring, the Gators almost made it 2-0. Monteagudo met a Deanne Rose cross in the six-yard box, but skied the ball over the crossbar, keeping it a one-score game.

“I love the fast start and that was really important for us especially coming off the week we just had,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “But still we’re leaving teams in games by leaving opportunities out there. We’re creating those opportunities, we just have to finish them.”

While the Florida offense wasn’t able to add to its tally, the defense made a significant impact on the first half. UF held the nation’s second highest scoring team to one shot in the first period of play.  The Rebels boast 38 goals on the season and the nation’s top scoring player, Channing Foster (9), but couldn’t find space behind the Gators’ back three marshaled by redshirt senior Gabby Seiler. The captain played the entirety of the match for UF and is celebrating her team’s victory along with her 23rd birthday.

The second half saw more competitive action, as the Gators had to call on goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese to make a couple key saves to solidify the win in her first match of the season.

Marckese played the match with a splint underneath her glove on her right-pinky finger.

“It felt natural,” Marckese said. “I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or the ibuprofen I took before the game, but it feels good.”

The second half also saw an increase in offensive production from Rose and substitute Cassie Owens. Rose, who seemed to have a Rebel defender on her back at all times in the first half, rattled off three shots, two on target, in the match’s second phase.

Owens scored a goal that was called back due to offside and struck crossbar late in the second half from 20 yards out.

“Her aggressiveness just causes problems for the other team,” Burleigh said. “She’s going to track down every ball, she’s going to get after it. And sometimes that’s very problematic.”

The aggressiveness that Owens brings to the match will be vital as the team makes a quick turnaround to play at Iowa State on Sunday. The Gators will play the Cyclones in an afternoon matchup set for 1 p.m.

You can follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr, and contact him at [email protected].

Mark Stine is sports editor for the Independent Florida Alligator. He's a senior at UF and has written softball, women's soccer, men's tennis and cross country in the past.