By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The Florida women’s soccer team got a goal from Tess Sapone in the 14th minute of action and the Gators made it stand up the rest of the way en route to a 1-0 win over Georgia before a Donald R. Dizney Stadium crowd of 679 Thursday night.
It was UF’s annual Kicking for the Cure match to celebrate cancer awareness, and the hard-fought victory ended a four-match winless streak for Florida, which improved to 5-8-3 overall and 3-3-2 in Southeastern Conference action.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, were held scoreless for the seventh straight match in falling to 4-8-4, 1-5-2.
“It’s good to be back in the win column, get a goal, get an early goal and get a shutout,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “There are definitely a lot of positives from this one.”
With the top 10 teams in the SEC qualifying for the conference’s postseason tournament, Florida, which entered the contest sitting in the No. 9 position, certainly helped its cause.
Georgia, on the other hand, was No. 12 entering the match and did nothing to help itself.
The Gators certainly had other chances, but thanks to Sapone’s first goal of the season, which came with an assist from Mayra Pelayo, they are still very much in the hunt.
“We just have to be able to finish our chances,” Sapone said. “Mayra put a fantastic ball across to me, and I just put it into the net.”
The shot, which came from eight yards out, gave UF the lead and the Gators never gave it up, outshooting the Bulldogs by a 12-5 margin in the match.
The match also marked the 27th career shutout for senior goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese, tying her with former keeper Katie Fraine, who set the record in 2010 that was later tied in 2014 by Taylor Burke.
The three now share the all-time mark for shutouts, but Marckese needs just one more to own the record.
“It’s great and we love it,” Marckese said. “Hopefully this builds some momentum going into Sunday’s game.”
There was a full slate of games Thursday night, but the Gators know that if they keep winning, they will keep their streak of having always reached the SEC Tournament alive and well.
Burleigh was pleased with her team allowing Georgia just five shots.
“I think that’s an accomplishment,” she said. “They’ve got some great offensive players, and I think our team did a pretty good job. They had two very good opportunities early, and we came up big in both of those situations.”
Next up for the Gators is a road match at Missouri on Sunday at 1 p.m., with the regular season finale set for Thursday, Oct. 25, at home against Arkansas at 6:30.