UF soccer falls to UCF at NCAAs

Florida defender Tessa Andujar, left, and Central Florida forward Nicolette Radovcic battle for control of the ball on Friday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, November 18, 2011 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 12:59 a.m.

Even after her team’s monthlong tailspin — and season — ended with a thud Friday night, Florida soccer coach Becky Burleigh refuses to call her team unlucky.

For the third year in a row, the Gators exited the NCAA Tournament in the second round, this time on a 3-2 loss to Central Florida. The Knights reached the third round for the first time in 24 years.

The eventual game-winner came on a UCF breakaway midway through the second half, with the Gators down 2-1. Nicolette Radovcic streaked through the middle of the field and between two UF defenders, who joined the Gators bench in yelling for an offsides call.

“It’s hard not to talk about the third goal because it changed the whole complexion of the game tremendously,” Burleigh said. “Despite that, I thought our team really kept its composure in fighting back to get that second goal.

“At that point, it should have been 2-2.”

Whatever demons have haunted the Gators (17-8) since their 1-0 loss to Mississippi State in mid-October returned in force Friday night. An early handball five minutes in set up a curling UCF free kick that Melissa Diggs pushed inside the near post for an early Knights lead.

The Gators woke up a few minutes later, with junior Erika Tymrak feeding Tahni Annis all three of UF’s first-half shots. After weaving through the left side of the penalty box, Tymrak chipped the ball over Knights goalkeeper Alie Reis for Annis’ tying header.

“I love my team and if we were going to go down and lose, then I’m glad that I could lose with them,” Annis said after the game as she fought back tears.

Catching the Gators out of position, UCF (13-4-5) regained the lead when Kristina Trujic uncorked a shot from roughly 25 yards out that snuck in the high far post corner to grab the 2-1 lead.

Annie Speese, who later had to be carried from the field with an apparent knee injury, rocketed a free kick from 20 yards out to pull the Gators within a goal.

“I’m a big believer in ‘You make your own luck.’ I think when you work really hard, you get luck, but there are some things that are just out of your control,” Burleigh said.

The Knights, making their first appearance in the third round since 1987, return to James G. Pressly Stadium at 1 p.m. on Sunday to face North Carolina, which cruised past Baylor 5-0.

“It’s been a monkey on our back, for sure,” said UCF coach Amanda Cromwell. “We’ve lost five in a row in the second round, and for that win to come against Florida, and then facing North Carolina, that’s what it’s all about. You want to beat the best to be the best.”

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