Florida stuns No. 1 Stanford

Florida soccer upsets top-ranked Stanford
Florida players celebrate with Gators midfielder Samantha Chung (2) after she scored for Florida against top-ranked Stanford, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium on the UF campus, in Gainesville. The Gators beat Stanford 3-2 to upset the Cardinal. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Facing the nation’s No. 1 team in Stanford, the Gators faced pressure early and consistently from an opponent who has flustered Florida in the five previous match-ups between the two programs.

And after pulling even twice, Florida junior midfielder Lais Araujo would provide the strike that put the Gators in front for good.

Araujo’s shot in the 82nd minute narrowly beat Stanford goalkeeper Alison Jahansouz, giving the Florida soccer team a 3-2 victory over the Cardinal on Friday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

“In the second half, they were really tired, and I think we knew we could start to press them and really pressure their back line,” Gators redshirt senior Gabby Seiler said. “There’s something about this team, we just bounce back. Any time we go through any sort of adversity, we respond.”

The Gators, who opened the season with wins over Troy and Florida Atlantic, faced continuous pressure from the opening minutes from a Cardinal team looking to force UF’s upperclassmen-heavy defense into some uncharacteristic mistakes. The strategy worked as Stanford (2-1-0) forward Catarina Macario got the scoring underway after a shot rebounded off Gators goalkeeper Susi Espinoza.

Florida (3-0-0) managed to regain momentum heading into halftime when Madison Alexander found Samantha Chung across the box and the score pulled the Gators even at the interim with her first goal of the season.

UF soccer

Who: Syracuse (2-0-1) vs. No. 8 Florida (3-0)

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Dizney Stadium

“It was very crucial,” Chung said on scoring before halftime. “I think we did a really good job of working together the entire game.”

As the second half got underway, the Cardinal once again pressured Florida’s backline from the kick-off. After a series of shots in quick succession, Stanford pulled in front once again on a goal from Beattie Goad, her first of the season. Barring a late surge, it appeared the Gators would once again come up short against the Cardinal. But as the final quarter of an hour arrived, Stanford’s energy and intensity began to fade, allowing Florida’s offense an opportunity to turn the tide of the game.

UF junior Mayra Pelayo would find Seiler in front of the goal with just enough space to pull Florida even in the 78th minute, setting the Gators up for a potential overtime period. Yet Florida would need just one more attack to seal the upset victory, as Araujo’s finish just three minutes later gave the Gators their first win over a No. 1-ranked opponent since 2015.

“I think the biggest thing we recognized is, once we started pressing them they started to panic a little bit,” Gators coach Becky Burleigh said. “That press, which is really physically demanding, it just kept on giving us turnover after turnover that we were winning in their half. And I think our offense was starting in a much higher point because of that. I think early on we were kind of sitting back a little bit and allowing them to play a little too much.”

Florida has a quick turnaround on the schedule, when the Gators return to Donald R. Dizney Stadium to battle Syracuse on Sunday at 7 p.m.

“One game doesn’t define us. The things that we did in that game, like our toughness and our grittiness, that stuff defines us, but one game doesn’t define us,” Burleigh said. “Unfortunately we have to turn around to play again on Sunday, so that’s going to be a big effort on our part to recover tomorrow. But really happy with our ability to be resilient and come back twice.”