Former UF standout helps put Jamaican soccer on map

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From left, UF women’s soccer coach Becky Burleigh, Jamaican World Cup’s first-ever scorer Havana Solaun, and former Buchholz coaches Ron Messick and Jim Peterson. A celebration return was held for Solaun at Swamp Head Brewery on Tuesday. [Larry Savage/Staff]

Despite dreary weather outside late Tuesday afternoon, there was plenty of warm greetings inside Swamp Head Brewery in celebration of former Gator and Buchholz Bobcat Havana Solaun, who scored Jamaica’s first World Cup goal June 18 in France.

The midfielder Solaun’s goal was the highlight for Reggae Girlsz, the first Carribean team to qualify for the World Cup, in a 4-1 loss to Australia.

And to top it all, a former Gainesville resident scored the country’s first goal.

“I think now it is sinking in,” said Solaun, a two-time first team All-SEC performer from 2011-2014 at UF. “Being home and being around the people who have supported me from the beginning. 

“In the moment, at the World Cup, it’s trying to keep the emotions low and focus high. Getting the goal and everything that has happened, I was thinking about it in the big picture, I was thinking about it in the moment of the game. We were down 2-0 at halftime, and I just came in and wanted to make a difference.”

There were plenty of Buchholz and Gator supporters to greet Solaun, who will play professionally in Norway in two days. She had played professionally with the NWSL’s Seattle Reign (2015-2016) and Washington Spirit (2017-2018).

“It was a real special group that I was a part of,” Solaun said. “Our goal, it was a team goal, put Jamaica on the map.

“Scoring a goal is always an exciting thing, and it was a World Cup game, and yes I put it through, but it wasn’t just necessarily me.”