After scoring just 23 goals in 21 games last season, Florida’s soccer team needed a player to revitalize its offense.
They found that in the offseason with forward Vanessa Kara, who played four seasons at Drexel before transferring to UF.
The All-SEC Second Team selection had a chance to improve on her team-high 10 goals Friday night, but an undisclosed injury kept her on the sidelines. Florida’s offense sputtered without its leading goalscorer, as USF defeated the Gators 4-2 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Obviously it was tough not having Vanessa, but she was not ready to go,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “We weren’t going to put her in a position where she wasn’t ready to play.”
Gators goalie Susi Espinoza was called into action early on.
Bulls forward Evelyne Viens latched on to a through ball near the edge of the 18-yard box, but her shot was saved in the bottom-right corner by Espinoza less than two minutes into the game.
Seconds later, UF (11-9-1) forward Kit Loferski played a lofted through ball to forward Deanne Rose, who outran USF’s back line. South Florida (15-4) goalie Sydney Martinez was quick off her line to clear the danger, though.
The Gators duo linked up again in the 19th minute. This time, however, it was Rose who provided the pass. Loferski did well to shake her defender, but Martinez stood her ground to make the stop.
Florida midfielder Cassidy Lindley tried her luck at the 30:34 mark with an ambitious effort from distance. Her shot curled a few inches wide of the post, and the game remained scoreless.
Viens broke the deadlock just two minutes before the halftime whistle. The Co-AAC Offensive Player of the Year registered her 21st goal of the season to put the Bulls ahead 1-0 heading into the break.
USF came out with a point to prove in the second half, as Viens found the back of the net twice in the first 10 minutes to complete her hat trick and give her team a 3-0 advantage.
Rose answered back with a goal in the 62nd minute to cut into South Florida’s lead, yet it didn’t spark the comeback that UF needed to save its season. Instead, the Bulls went on to score their fourth goal in the 84th minute.
Florida defender Georgia Eaton-Collins bagged her first collegiate goal just 32 seconds later, but it was too little, too late, as the Gators’ 25th season came to an end.
“Going forward, we just have to uphold the standard that we set throughout this season,” midfielder Parker Roberts said. “We’ve shown that we are capable of playing through anyone and against anybody.”
Follow Bryan Matamoros on Twitter @bryan_2712. Contact him at [email protected]