UF soccer jumps on ’Backs early

Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 11:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 2:16 a.m.

The Florida soccer express continues to roll.

The 24th-ranked Gators jumped on visiting Arkansas for a season-high three first-half goals en route to a 4-0 shutout of the Razorbacks Sunday before a Pressly Stadium crowd of 556.

The win, the fifth in a row for Florida (8-3-1, 5-1), capped a perfect 4-0 homestand for coach Becky Burleigh’s Gators, who scored first in all four matches.

“That’s a trend that’s been occurring lately that I really like,” Burleigh said. “When we do that, it really takes the pressure off and allows us to play a little bit freer.”

Coupled with Tennessee’s 1-0 upset of No. 11 Missouri, UF moved into a tie with the Tigers (10-2, 5-1) atop the SEC East Division with 15 points. Both teams are just one point behind No. 6 Texas A&M (11-1-1, 5-0-1), the SEC West and overall leader.

Sophomore Annie Speese got things started for UF in the 17th minute with a left-footed blast from 15 yards out following a great pass from junior Maggie Rodgers.

Senior Holly King made it 2-0 when freshman Christen Westphal placed a long free kick from near midfield into the box where King headed the ball in goal in the 29th minute, her fourth consecutive Sunday goal and third by header.

Redshirt senior McKenzie Barney then capped the first-half scoring explosion with her fourth goal of the season, taking a perfect pass in stride from sophomore Annie Bobbitt and carrying it deep inside the box before ripping the shot into the back of the net in the 37th minute.

The goal was the 30th of Barney’s career, making her just the seventh UF player in history to reach that scoring plateau.

“It’s a huge honor being a part of this program and doing that,” Barney said.

“Annie Bobbitt played an amazing ball. I made a run through there and the defense didn’t see me with it, but it takes a great ball to slice the defense like that. I just took a touch toward the goal, saw the keeper was on line so kept kind of dribbling at her and finished it.”

The Gators, who scored on three of their six first-half shots, got off nine shots in the second half but did not put any in the back of the net until redshirt sophomore Tatiana Perez converted a penalty kick following an inadvertent handball call inside the box on the Razorbacks with just 31 seconds left to play. It was her first career goal.

The Razorbacks (5-6-1, 2-3-1), who did not get off a shot in the first half, got off five after intermission, but none were on goal as sophomore Taylor Burke and freshman Valerie Tysinger combined for UF’s third shutout of the season, but first in SEC play.

“We really, really wanted the shutout today because as well as we played defensively Friday night (3-1 win over Ole Miss), we didn’t get the shutout,” Burleigh said. “That was a big focus for us.”

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