By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The 24th-ranked Florida soccer team defeated Southeastern Conference foe Auburn, 2-1, before a damp but happy Donald R. Dizney Stadium crowd of 835 Friday.
UF, winning for the eighth time in the last nine matches, improves to 10-5 overall and 6-1 in SEC action while the Tigers fall to 6-7-2, 3-4.
“I thought from an execution standpoint we played really well,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “Auburn was trying to take away something from us, and I don’t think they were as successful at that as they would have liked to have been.
“I thought we really left a few goals on the field still. We’re going to be working on finishing for sure this week. But in terms of our execution to our game plan, it was really good.”
Auburn scored the game’s first goal on an unassisted, 19-yard blast off the foot of Angeline Daly in the game’s 16th minute to take a 1-0 lead.
The Gators answered some 20 minutes later when Kouri Pearce put the ball in the back of the net from 6 yards out at the 36:47 mark to tie things up, with an assist from Carina Baltrip-Reyes
The score remained 1-all at the half.
“Having a slick surface to play on helps the ball roll a little bit easier,” Pearce said. “I think it helped us tonight.”
Florida then took the lead just three minutes into the second half as midfielder Parker Roberts broke the tie with a well-placed shot from 9 yards out, with Cassidy Lindley credited with the assist.
It was Roberts’ fourth goal of the season and came at the 47:52 mark of the match.
From there, the Gators turned up the defense and kept Auburn scoreless for the rest of the match.
“Honestly, it happened really fast,” Roberts said of her fourth goal of the season. “I remember one of the midfielders checked deeper, so then I took their place up a little bit higher. I saw Cass dribbling and saw a gap between their centerbacks, so I just ran. I saw myself 1-v-1 with the goalie, and I just tried to get it on target.”
Roberts’ aim was true, and her game-winning shot was the last score of the match.
Florida’s defense did the rest, turning back several Auburn forays until the clock read all zeros.
The Gators outshot the Tigers, 15-7, holding them to just one second-half shot.
Espinoza was credited with four saves, while Auburn keeper Kate Hart was credited with seven.
Next up, Florida travels to face Tennessee for a 7 p.m. match Thursday.