Hurricanes storm past Gators in opener
Published: Friday, August 17, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 12:15 a.m.
It wasn’t the start to the season the Florida Gators were looking for by any stretch of the imagination.
Visiting Miami spoiled UF’s opener on the James G. Pressly pitch with an impressive 4-1 victory over 21st-ranked Florida before a crowd of 1,243 Friday night, handing the Gators just their second season-opening loss at home in their 18-year history.
In losing to Miami for just the second time in seven meetings, UF surrendered as many goals in one night as the Hurricanes had scored in the previous six matches combined.
Freshman Paige Lombard scored in the game’s 12th minute to stake Miami to a 1-0 lead. Senior Kate Howarth, Miami’s leading scorer a year ago, added another goal five minutes later, and fellow senior Tina Romagnuolo gave the ’Canes a commanding 3-0 lead at the half with a goal in the 31st minute.
UF, which was outshot 5-1 in the opening half, did make a run in the second half, finally breaking the scoring drought when senior All-American Erika Tymrak played a perfect pass to freshman forward Claire Falknor inside the box and Falknor put the ball in the back of the net to cut Miami’s lead to 3-1 with 32:39 remaining in the match.
It marked the third straight season a UF freshman has scored in the season opener.
The Gators kept up the pressure and just missed on a couple of great chances after that to get closer, but following a UF foul near midfield, a Miami free kick landed perfectly inside the box, and UF sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Burke got caught up in a melee in front of the goal. The ball bounced right to Romagnuolo and she put the ball in the right corner of the open net for her second goal of the night to close out the scoring.
“I think we were very opportunistic,” said Miami head coach Tom Anagnost. “We were very effective in front of the goal, and that was the key for us.
“I give a lot of credit to Florida in the second half. They came at us in every way, and we had to bend but not break. We’re very happy. We beat an excellent team tonight.”
Three of Miami’s goals came on set pieces, including two in the first half following corner kicks.
“I think Miami did a very good of taking advantage of the set pieces, and we obviously didn’t do a good job of defending them,” UF head coach Becky Burleigh said. “As a coach, that responsibility has got to come to me for not being prepared to deal with that very well. Their execution was terrific, and our execution in defending them was very poor.
“Obviously there was about a 15-minute stretch there where we kind of got it rolling and had some great chances. The backbreaker was the fourth goal. When they put that in, again off another set piece, that was difficult.”
UF vowed to regroup.
“It takes a big fall to know where you stand, and we got it out of our system,” Tymrak said. “We learned a lot from this game. We need to be more organized defensively and we need to go harder every tackle. It doesn’t matter if it’s on our side of the field or their side of the field. Every single time, we need to go hard as a team. There was a lot of individual effort tonight, and that’s not going to win games.”