UF roundup: Soccer teams opens 2021 with 5-1 win over College of Charleston

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida's Tim Walton notched his 800th career win as the Gators softball coach in Saturday's sweep at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

The sixth-ranked Florida softball team earned a pair of wins over Georgia Southern, 2-1, and Charlotte, 5-2, Saturday during the second day of the Bubly Invitational.

The two wins were head coach Tim Walton's 799th and 800th as a Gator. Last season, Walton earned his 900th career victory as a head coach, which was the second fastest an NCAA Division I head coach had achieved the feat.

The Gators (5-0) won in dramatic fashion for the second time this week when junior Charla Echols came through in the clutch in the bottom of the 7th inning against Georgia Southern (0-3).

Florida trailed 1-0 with only three outs remaining in the game against the Eagles, but the Gators rallied with a leadoff walk from Avery Goelz and a sacrifice bunt from Kali Reis, which moved the tying run into scoring position. Cheyenne Lindsey turned the lineup over to the top of the order whenever she moved Goelz to third on a groundout to second base.

Hannah Adams followed with a four-pitch walk to put runners on the corners and Kendyl Lindaman loaded the bases in the following to setup Echols.

Echols, who is now hitting .667 (12-18) on the season, laced a 2-1 offering from Kyleigh Richardson (0-1) back up the middle to score Goelz and Adams to win the game.

Rylee Trlicek received the start in the circle and went 4.0 innings, before she was relieved by Katie Chronister (3-0) who turned in a 3.0 innings without relinquishing a hit or a walk.

In the second game of the afternoon, Florida wasted no time in jumping out in front against Charlotte (3-2). In the top of the first inning, Lindaman broke open the scoring with a two-run home run that scored Adams, who led off the game being hit by pitch.

The Gators continued to put the pressure on the 49ers in the following at-bats as Echols drew a five-pitch walk and Avery Goelz produced an infield single that also forced an errant throw into the Charlotte dugout that moved the duo to second and third.

That set the table again, but this time for freshman Emily Wilkie. Wilkie, in her first career start, stepped to the plate and delivered a three-run home run to bust the game open 5-0 in the 1st inning. 

From that moment, right-handed starting pitcher Elizabeth Hightower (2-0) had enough cushion to pitch comfortably from the circle. Hightower retired six-straight from the 2nd and 3rd innings, before she gave up her first hit with two outs in the 4th frame.

Soccer

In the Gators' first match back in almost 100 calendar days, they kicked off their spring calendar with a 5-1 win over visiting College of Charleston.

Besides for neutral site matchups with LSU (March 14) and Georgia (March 28), the Gators  (3-7-1, 1-6-1 SEC) face five non-conference opponents this spring.

"It was such a beautiful day so it was hard not to have good energy because it was just perfect playing conditions," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "We've been in a really, really long stretch of playing against ourselves so it's just nice to see live competition."

It was the first time Florida and College of Charleston (0-1) have played each other. The scheduling came after Florida's game vs. FAU on Friday was canceled due to COVID complications on Florida Atlantic's team.

The scoring opened off a corner from the Gators when Laney Steed sent one into the box for Parker Roberts, who headed the ball into the back of the net.

A strong defense that allowed just three shots on goal kept the Gators in the lead all day.

It was in the 41st minute, a penalty kick drawn by Florida gave Maddy Rhodes the opportunity to extend the lead to two, and that she did.

Florida went into the half with a 2-0 lead.

The melee of scoring came in between the 63' minute and 72' minute as the Gators tacked on three goals within the span of nine minutes.

A College of Charleston goal also wedged in between the span, but a strong Gator attack overwhelmed any comeback effort from the Cougars.

Notable scores came from freshman Beata Olsson, who scored her first two goals in her Gator debut. She joined the team in January. The Swedish forward is the first freshman Gator since Savannah Jordan in 2013 to score two goals in their debut.

Her first goal came with the help of Madison Alexander who put the ball to Olsson's feet before ultimately finishing in the back of the net. She tacked on another in the 72' for good measure off the assist from Ava Kuyken.

Olsson and Rhodes weren't the only freshman standouts, as midfielder freshman Delaney Tauzel put in a goal of her own in the 68' minute, her first collegiate goal.

Assisting on Tauzel's goal was once again Laney Steed, her second of the game, which tied her collegiate career best for assists in a single game.

Up next: Spring season play continues next Saturday when Florida squares off in an in-state clash with visiting USF. It also marks the Gators' Senior Day.