As Gabby Seiler sprinted down the left flank with the ball, looking to put Florida in front early, she watched as fellow midfielder Parker Roberts overlapped and called for a pass inside the box. Seiler provided and Roberts delivered the opening goal in the game’s 13th minute, and Florida never looked back.
Roberts’ finish put Florida in front early and the Gators would bent but not break en route to securing the 2-1 SEC soccer win over Missouri on Thursday at James G. Pressly Stadium.
“Lately we’ve really struggled getting up in the first 15 minutes, we’ve kind of sat back and let other teams come at us,” Roberts said. “I think it was very important for us to go right at Mizzou right off the bat and set the tempo.”
UF, coming off a 3-0 win at Georgia on Sunday that saw the Gators seal the win with a trio of strikes in the final 25 minutes, made sure to set the tone on offense early. Following Roberts’ goal, her third of the season, the Gators (10-2-1, 4-1 SEC) would need all of a minute to pad the lead, as junior Mayra Pelayo’s chip from outside of the box beat Tigers (5-8-1, 1-4) goalkeeper Kristen Rivers and landed in the side netting.
“I just saw the goalkeeper coming off her line and I just took a chance,” Pelayo said. “I think it was really critical for us to have this moment early in the game and I think this was one of the best first halfs we’ve had in awhile. It really set the tone for us.”
After taking the two-goal lead into the halftime break, the Gators had an opportunity to continue padding the lead on a penalty kick from Seiler, but Rivers guessed correctly and made a diving save to keep the Tigers in the match. Over the next 20 minutes the Missouri attack made sure to make the most of Rivers’ effort. Tigers midfielder Madison Lewis drilled a 25-yard free kick in the 57th minute to pull Missouri to within a goal and keep the pressure on Florida’s defense, but the backline stood tall to keep the Gators in front for the rest of the way.
The match, dubbed annually as UF’s Kicking for the Cure, saw the Gators set aside their typical orange and blue and don pink jerseys to show support for the fight against breast cancer. The win marked No. 400 in the program’s 23-year history, with all victories coming under coach Becky Burleigh.
“I think it just means you’ve been at some place a really long time and had a lot of consistency,” Burleigh said. “A lot of great players have come through.”
The Gators have a quick turnaround, as the team hits the road for a Sunday match-up with Vanderbilt in Nashville at 1 p.m. before returning to Gainesville on Thursday to host Florida State at 6 p.m.
“The score might not reflect that, but I thought we played really well,” Burleigh said. “I thought we created some great opportunities. That game easily could have been blown open by the chances we created, and I just thought the patience we showed around the box was really, really good.”