UF soccer advances in NCAA play


Florida's Meggie Dougherty Howard (28) heads the ball as she scores a header goal off a corner kick during a match against Jacksonville University in the first round of the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship, in Gainesville on Saturday. The Gators won 2-0 over the Dolphins to advance in the tournament.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 11:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 12:43 a.m.

The 2-0 final score may not have reflected No. 6 Florida's dominance in Saturday's first-round NCAA Tournament win over visiting Jacksonville at Pressly Stadium, but the bottom line is the Gators get to keep on playing.

“For us, it's move on and advance, and that's important,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “We did a great job of really shutting down their offense and not allowing them any opportunities. We created a lot of chances and probably should have scored more, but overall at this stage of the game, it's all about moving on and advancing.”

The Gators (18-4-1) will face Duke (9-8-4), a 2-1 winner over host Colorado College, in a second-round match Friday. Sites and times have not yet been decided.

Florida, a No. 2 seed, peppered JU with a season-high 26 shots and owned a 15-1 edge in corner kicks, but a combination of a crowded box resulting from the Dolphins (12-8-1) keeping so many players back, some solid goalkeeping from JU senior Sarah Sierra (12 saves), and some unlucky bounces for UF kept the score closer than it could have been.

Ironically, after missing a couple of good scoring chances early, UF finally broke on top on a 20-yard shot from the right side of the field in the game's 31st minute from junior defender Tessa Andujar that she noted was not intended to find the back of the net.

Freshman forward Savannah Jordan was credited with an assist on the play, which resulted in Andujar's first goal since her freshman season.

“Savannah passed it over to me, and I knew I should just take it down the line and then cross it over to her,” Andujar said. “That's what I tried to do, but it just went in.”

That was all the scoring until the second half, when freshman midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard managed to nudge a well-placed corner kick by junior midfielder Annie Speese past Sierra from point-blank range in the 57th minute for her second goal of the season to make it 2-0, with Speese netting her seventh assist of the year.

With junior attacking midfielder Havana Solaun out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, Speese turned in a yeoman's effort in her stead, narrowly missing a pair of second-half goals.

“We had a little bit of a shaky start to the game,” said Speese, whose 20-yard blast with 38 minutes left to play was just tipped over the crossbar by a leaping Sierra and 15 minutes later, had a 25-yard shot carom off the far post.

“That's one of the things that a lot of my teammates told me they needed me to do more, so I've just been trying to shoot a lot more. I couldn't put any in today, but I'm going to keep doing that and keep trying to help my team. Ultimately we got the win.”

JU coach Brian Copham felt his team did the best it could.

“We knew coming in today that it was going to be a hard task and a very good team that we were playing against,” he said. “From our side of things, we wanted to stay organized and compete on the defensive side every time the ball came to our end, compete for crosses and blocked shots, those types of things.

“I am incredibly proud of my team for not only the effort, but the fight that they put up throughout the entire match.”

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