By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
There were all sorts of possibilities for the Florida soccer team Thursday night as UF hosted Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas in the regular-season finale at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Some good, some not so good.
The Gators (6-9-3, 4-4-2), however, made it all work out by playing one of their most complete matches of the year, getting a goal in the first half from senior Briana Solis and adding two second-half goals from sophomore Deanne Rose less than five minutes apart en route to a 3-0 Senior Day win over the Razorbacks (11-4-3, 6-3-1) before a crowd of 519.
With the victory, UF ensured it made the 10-team field for the upcoming SEC Tournament that gets underway Sunday in Orange Beach, Alabama. UF meets Auburn at 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday. The winner there plays SEC champ Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
“I just told them afterwards I was really inspired with their performance,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “I know that this team is capable of that all the time, and I think that’s been the most frustrating part of the season is that sometimes we haven’t brought that. But I think they just need to continue to believe and take it one game at a time.”
Solis got the Gators on the scoreboard first with a blast from 20 yards out in the 10th minute that was placed just out of reach of Arkansas goalkeeper Taylor Beitz to give UF a 1-0 lead.
It was Solis’ first goal of the season.
“We knew we were in for a battle tonight,” Solis said. “I just saw an open gap right when I found the ball. It was just between two defenders and I saw a goal and went for it.”
The Gators then got back-to-back goals from Rose, the first from 14 yards out with an assist from senior Mayra Pelayo in the 53rd minute of the match, followed by another less than four minutes later from 10 yards out with an assist from junior Tess Sapone.
That seemed to take the stuffing out of the Hogs, who were outshot 11-7 and became UF goalie Kaylan Marckese’s 28th career shutout victim, giving her the all-time UF record.
She had been tied with former goalkeepers Katie Fraine (2010) and Taylor Burke (2014).
“I felt great, honestly,” Marckese said. “The soccer we played tonight was gorgeous. It was awesome. I’m still smiling, and it feels so good to be recognized on this site with all the rest of the team and the other seniors. It feels amazing.”
Where exactly the Gators end up will be determined by how the rest of the league’s matches finished up, but they know they will keep on playing.
That was the goal heading in Thursday’s match.
“We talked all along about needing some momentum,” Burleigh noted. “Hopefully, this is what kicks that off. We had our backs up against the wall, and we delivered.”
All SEC Tournament play can be found on the SEC Network.