South Florida eliminates Florida from NCAA soccer tourney

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Florida had chances to extend its season, yet the Gators repeatedly couldn’t capitalize in front of the goal.

South Florida’s Evelyne Viens, however, had little trouble finding the back of the net — something she’s done all season.

Viens, the Bulls forward with the third-most goals in NCAA Division I soccer coming into Friday’s match, provided a trio of strikes in a 12-minute span that stretched across both halves to help No. 17-ranked USF eliminate UF, 4-2, in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. 

“Obviously their ability to score four goals, you’re going to win a lot of games when you score four goals. I thought USF played really well,” Florida coach Becky Burleigh said. “In the NCAA Tournament, you can’t be tentative.”

On a damp and chilly Gainesville night, the Gators (11-9-1) and Bulls (15-4) each came out playing physical defense, resulting in a scoreless contest for much of the first half until a goal in the 43rd minute from Viens from just outside UF’s six-yard box put USF in front heading into the halftime break. 

“She’s a great player,” UF midfielder Parker Roberts said of Viens. “You have to be aware of her, aware of her goal-scoring abilities.”

Looking to turn the tide and extend its season, Florida came out aggressive in the second half, but Viens wouldn’t be denied in the final third.

Goals in both the 52nd and 55th minute put UF in a 3-0 hole, but the Gators wouldn’t go quietly. 

Junior forward Deanne Rose found the back of the net in the 62nd minute, and UF would amp up the pressure throughout the remaining final third, but USF would add its fourth strike to erase Florida’s comeback aspirations and eliminate the Gators from the postseason.

“I think this season, this team has proved what we’re capable of,” Roberts said. “We have to uphold the standard we’ve set this season.”