Special to Gatorsports.com
TALLAHASSEE — The University of Florida soccer team lost 2-1 to No. 6 and defending NCAA champion Florida State on Friday evening in front of 3,154 at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
The Gators (2-3) struck first in the 53rd minute when senior midfielder Tess Sapone gained possession of an FSU clearance attempt. Her right-footed volley scored from 14 yards for her first goal of the season and the third of her career.
“Feels great to be surrounded by your teammates in the run of play,” Sapone said. “The overall feeling of going ahead is something you don’t feel often so it was great to have the opportunity to get that experience.”
Four minutes later, the Seminoles (3-2) tied the match. Florida goalkeeper Susi Espinoza was looking for an offsides call that never came and FSU’s Katie McFarland scored on an empty net in the 57th minute.
“These games never fail to disappoint,” said Gators coach Becky Burleigh. “Every Florida-Florida State game is going to be one like this. Great match for the fans, great environment, the band, the sell-out — everything about it was first class.”
The go-ahead goal came in the 71st minute when the Seminoles’ Yujie Zhao used her right foot to volley in the cross from teammate Jaelin Howell.
In the 79th minute, the center official asked for a video review after FSU goalkeeper Caroline Jeffers collided with Gator freshman Laney Steed. After the review, Jeffers left the match with a red card, forcing the Seminoles to play the final 10 minutes with 10 players. Florida was awarded a penalty kick on the play. FSU’s replacement goalkeeper Brooke Bollinger made the save on Parker Robert’s penalty kick attempt.
“FSU is a very good team,” Burleigh said. “In the first half, they pinned us in and in the second half, we solved it a bit. It is a heart-breaking loss. It is a game we expected to win so the result is disappointing.”
UF hosts UCF (0-1) at 6 p.m. Sunday in the Gators’ home opener. Admission is free.