Short-handed UF soccer team falls at South Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — A short-handed Florida soccer team lost 4-2 at No. 11 South Carolina on Sunday afternoon.

The Gators (1-3-1) left head coach Becky Burleigh and several key players in Gainesville due to injuries or COVID-19 protocol. In addition to Burleigh, Carina Baltrip-Reyes, Georgia Eaton-Collins, Ashlyn Kane, Ava Kuyken, Kit Loferski, Kouri Peace and Deanne Rose were unavailable.

"Congrats to Shelley (Smith, South Carolina's head coach) on her 300th win. She's a class act," Burleigh said.

"Clearly had an issue defending corners and USC exposed that. We will work on that going forward. Felt good about our ability in the run of play but we aren't here for moral victories." 

South Carolina (5-1) scored in the sixth minute with a Sutton Jones near post header off a Jyllissa Harris corner kick.

Gator redshirt freshman Nicole Vernis tied the match at 9:02 with her first collegiate goal on Florida's first shot of the match. Madison Alexander sent the ball right to Cassidy Lindley making a run through the right side of the box. Lindley's cross found Vernis on the other side of the box where she placed it in with a 14-yard right footed shot.

USC's Samantha Chang, the reigning National Player of the Week, scored in the 21st minute with a shot from the center that hit the crossbar to fall in.

A South Carolina corner kick in the 42nd minute was headed three times before it came to Rylee Forster. Her right-footed volley shot scored from 15 yards to put the Gamecocks ahead for good.

Jones' second goal of the afternoon in the 67th minute looked like her first - a near post header off a Chang corner kick.

Another Gator scored her first collegiate goal Sunday. Laney Steed headed a Gamecock throw-in deep in the USC half toward the top of the box. Freshman Tori Grambo jumped on the Gamecock's clearance attempt and then took four touches as she headed toward the top of the box. Her left-footed strike from 19 yards hit the far post to kick in with 22 seconds remaining.

Next up: Florida returns home to play host to Tennessee for the Gators final home action of 2020. The match moved up a day to Friday due to rescheduling of the Florida-Missouri football game to Oct. 31.

Notes: Taylor Baksay and Nicole Vernis made their first collegiate starts for UF. Two others played their first Gator minutes at South Carolina — Anna DeLeon and Alexa Goldberg.