By Jim Harvin
Seventh-ranked Florida got a goal in the first five minutes from junior Mayra Pelayo and the Gators made it stand up the rest of the way en route to a 1-0 win over No. 24 Ole Miss at James G. Pressly Stadium Thursday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both squads.
With the win, UF improved 6-1, 1-0 while the Rebels, who entered the contest as one of four unbeaten SEC teams, fell to 7-1-1, 0-1.
“I was really happy with the shutout,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “I thought defensively we were really solid besides maybe the first 15 minutes. After that we kind of got down what we were trying to do defensively, and I thought we really shut down their attack.”
Fellow junior Melanie Monteagudo started the goal by taking possession of the ball in the box on a throw-in from redshirt senior Gabby Seiler and firing it across to Pelayo, who scored her first goal of the season from seven yards out.
The goal at 4:43 ended Mississippi’s shutout streak record at 569 minutes.
The Gators would have more scoring chances throughout the match, finishing with a 10-4 advantage in shots, but just came up short of extending the lead on a couple of occasions.
But thanks to their tremendous defensive effort, Ole Miss, which came into the match leading the nation in scoring, could never get the equalizer.
“The first opportunity we had, I put that in,” Pelayo said. “I just remember it coming from Mel, and she sent it to me and I just tapped it in.”
Monteagudo’s assist on the goal was her second of the season. She also had the assist on Lais Araujo’s game-winner against No. 1 Stanford in UF’s 3-2 win on Aug. 25.
“We always kind of preach like let’s come out in the first five minutes and score a goal,” Monteagudo said. “Fortunately today we did that, and I just happened to be a part of it.”
Thursday was the first game of the season for junior goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese, who has been sidelined with a hand injury.
She responded with a solid effort, recording a pair of saves and posting her first shutout of the year.
“That’s something we’ve been working on, the defensive effort,” Marckese said. “It’s something we’ve carried on through the last five or six games. It’s just a testament to Gabby (Seiler), Rachelle (Smith) and K.C. (Kristen Cardano) back there especially, and everyone on the field. We just want to show how good defensively we are this year and how committed we are to that.”
The match marked the first time Seiler has failed to score in a UF victory this year, but that was of little concern to the redshirt senior and team captain who played center back in Florida’s 3-5-2 alignment.
“I think any SEC game is going to be like that,” said Seiler, who was celebrating her birthday. “Teams are going to come right at us, but we can win games 1-0 obviously. Yeah, we want to put teams away and we’d like to win every game 4-0, but realistically that’s not going to happen.”
Florida is now 18-4-1 in SEC openers.
Next up, UF travels to face Iowa State Sunday.