By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
A solid effort was not enough for homestanding Florida as ninth-ranked Tennessee pinned a 2-0 defeat on the Gators before a Donald R. Dizney Stadium crowd of 525 Thursday.
The loss ended a modest three-match unbeaten streak for UF, which fell to 4-7-2 overall and 2-2-1 in Southeastern Conference play while Tennessee won its fourth straight match to improve to 10-1-1, 4-1.
The Volunteers got a goal from Danielle Marcano from close range in the first two minutes of play to put Florida in an early hole, but to their credit, the Gators hung tough and went to halftime trailing only 1-0.
“We did really well to move past the first goal, I thought,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “The rest of that half we kind of took them apart a little bit.”
There was no change in the score, though, until Tennessee made it 2-0 on a 6-yard shot off the foot of Erin Gilroy at the 56:16 mark of the second half, and from there, the Vols just hung back and thwarted whatever the Gators threw their way.
UF’s closest call came midway through the first half when Mayra Pelayo’s 10-yard shot caromed off the crossbar.
“It was definitely a tough night,” UF midfielder Sarah Troccoli said. “Tennessee is always a tough team to play. Becky said at the end of the game ‘I don’t know if the result is how the game actually went.’
“We had a lot of chances that we didn’t finish on. It was just a tough loss.”
The Gators outshot the Vols by a 13-10 margin, but none of UF’s shots found the back of the net.
The Vols were more efficient, with six of their 10 shots on-goal while Florida could only manage to get six of its 13 shots on-goal.
Tennessee goalkeeper Shae Yanez recorded six saves in the shutout, while UF goalie Kaylan Marckese finished with four.
“It was definitely frustrating,” midfielder Sammie Betters said. “We worked really hard, and I think it just came down to execution. Today, Tennessee was able to execute better than we were.”
Burleigh noted that the Gators needed to improve on their efficiency.
“I think the disappointing and frustrating thing obviously is that score probably doesn’t reflect what that game looked like,” Burleigh said. “But in the end, the score matters, and we just have to be better at finishing our chances. It wasn’t a lack of creation of chances. It was just a lack of being able to stick it.
“They were very efficient finishing their chances, and we were very inefficient.”
Thursday marked the midway point of UF’s 10-game SEC regular-season slate.
Next up, the Gators travel to face No. 11 South Carolina, the defending league champion, in Columbia Sunday at 3 p.m.
UF at home for volleyball
The No. 11 Florida volleyball team plays Texas A&M at 7 tonight at the O’Connell Center. The match will air on the SEC Network and on AM850/98.1-FM.
The Gators enter with a 13-3 record overall and are riding a nine-match winning streak. Florida is 4-0 in the SEC and has not dropped a set during league play. The 12 consecutive set wins is tied for the fourth-longest mark to start off the SEC slate in the Mary Wise-era (Longest – 2003, where the Gators did not lose a set for the entirety of SEC play).
UF holds the 14-1 series advantage over the Aggies (10-5, 3-0), including a 12-1 record under coach Mary Wise.