UF roundup: Gators drop soccer match at No. 11 Texas A&M

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BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — No. 11 Texas A&M scored two first-half goals Sunday and held off No. 15 Florida for a 2-1 SEC soccer win  at Ellis Field.

It was a traditional meeting between the two programs. Sunday's result was the 13th one-goal decision in the 17-match all-time series between the two teams. UF dropped to 1-1-1 and A&M improved to 2-1.

The opening goal came in the 22nd minute when Texas A&M's Barbara Olivieri's corner kick curled in to kick in off the far post.

A foul was called on Florida's Parker Roberts when she bumped TAMU's Lauren Geczik inside the top corner of the box. Jimena Lopez scored on the resulting penalty kick in the 28th minute.

The first goal of second half was also the first Gator goal for sophomore Syd Kennedy. Madison Alexander tried to play the ball into the box but it deflected off the legs of TAMU defenders. Alexander picked up the deflection, sliding to poke the ball to Kenned located at the top of the box. With her natural left foot, Kennedy scored on a 17-yard shot to the far post in the 58th minute.

"I thought in the first half Texas A&M did a really good job of playing physically against us and we really didn't respond that well," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "In the second half, we stepped it up. The second half was a different game for us. But probably too little too late.

"It's a really good lesson for us when playing on the road - or anywhere, to be fair - we need to start out a little grittier right from the beginning and not try to work our way into the game." 

Florida returns home to play host to Vanderbilt for Kicking for the Cure — UF's annual cancer awareness match at 6 p.m. Sunday. Vanderbilt lost 2-1 in double overtime at South Carolina on Sunday.

Notes:  Gator sophomore Kouri Peace left the match early in the second half with an ankle injury. She'll be examined by UF team doctors when the Gators return to Gainesville.

• Florida goalkeeper Susi Espinoza turned in a season-high six saves Sunday

• This is the 10th time both teams brought a national ranking into a meeting.

• Texas A&M was Florida's third consecutive ranked opponent to open 2020 action. The Gators opened 2020 with a tie versus No. 8 Georgia (1-1 2OT) and then won versus then No. 15 Alabama (2-1)


Florida received the No. 2 ranking in the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the league announced last week.

Florida, which finished last season’s campaign with a 27-5 record and won a share of the 2019 SEC Championship, garnered two first-place votes and totaled 132 points, just 11 points behind Kentucky for first place.

The Gators also boasted one Preseason All-SEC selection in junior outside hitter Thayer Hall. The Spartanburg, S.C. native is a two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American and earned a spot on the All-SEC team in 2019. Hall finished her sophomore campaign with 13 double-doubles, the fourth-best mark in the SEC.

UF returns 12 players from last season’s NCAA Regional Semifinal team, including five starters: Holly Carlton, Lauren Dooley, Thayer Hall, Paige Hammons and Lauren Dooley.

The Gators welcome four freshmen to the 2020 squad and transfer T’ara Ceasar will see her first action on the court this fall after sitting out the 2019 season due to SEC Transfer rules.

The fall portion of the 2020 campaign will serve up on Friday and will consist of eight matches against four opponents. Those eight matches will be played in a double-header format, consisting of two home weekends and two away weekends.

The Gators are slated to make their debut at Auburn on Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. Florida’s home opener is the following week, when Alabama comes to town on Oct. 30 for a 7 p.m. matchup.

Details on fan capacity with the released at a later date.