UF Soccer: Gators cruise by Eagles into second round


Florida's Savannah Jordan (7) drives the ball near the goal during the first round match-up against Florida Gulf Coast University in the NCAA Soccer Championship, at Dizney Stadium

(Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer)
Published: Friday, November 11, 2016 at 10:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 11, 2016 at 10:56 p.m.

As shot after shot failed to beat Florida Gulf Coast keeper Melissa Weck, and with time winding down in the NCAA Tournament first-round match-up, Florida coach Becky Burleigh encouraged her team to stay the course and keep their composure.

Eventually, Burleigh knew, the Gators would break through.

After a barrage of shots and missed opportunities, No. 1 seed Florida finally broke through late in the second half before securing a 3-0 win over the Eagles on Friday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

“Our sport is a strange one,” Burleigh said. “I felt like we had a really dominating performance (in the first half), but still you have to put the ball in the back of the net, and Gulf Coast had a lot to do with that, why it wasn't in the back of the net."

Florida had multiple chances in the first half to take an early lead against the Eagles (14-5-1), who just three weeks ago had nine of 26 members with potentially season-ending injuries. But the FGCU backline kept forwards Savannah Jordan and Melanie Monteagudo in check throughout the first half as the two teams went into the midway point all squared up.

But the Eagles, who've faced the Gators in the NCAA Tournament in three of the last six years, couldn't keep up with Florida's speed and depth.

Weck had nine saves before UF senior midfielder Meggie Dougherty-Howard finally found the back of the net in the 66th minute. Any hope the Eagles had of knotting the contest was erased by an unassisted goal from UF (16-4-1) defender Julia Lester in the 78th minute.

Senior forward Savannah Jordan, playing in her penultimate game in Gainesville, finished off the late scoring effort with her 81st collegiate goal in the 82nd minute. The goal moves Jordan, a two-time SEC Offensive Player of the Year, to 189 points, making her the NCAA's active scoring leader.

“I think they did a really good job defensively,” Jordan said of the Eagles. “They gave their 100-percent effort in blocking shots and kind of denying us the first half, but once we got the first goal, Meggie did a good job of opening that up for us. It was a little better to relax after that."

Florida will be back in action at home next Friday at 7 p.m. to face Wisconsin (9-4-8) in the second round of the tournament.

For Burleigh, she thinks the Gators have yet to play at their best this season and the team is peaking at the right time.

“Every game gave us an opportunity to grow and get better, and really learn and progress,” Burleigh said. “But I don't think we are done growing yet.”

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