UF roundup: Soccer team advances on PKs at SEC tournament

Special to Gatorsports.com
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Madison Alexander celebrates Florida's soccer win Sunday over Vanderbilt.

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — Florida's soccer team used a 4-3 penalty kicks advantage over Vanderbilt to move ahead to Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal action.

The Gators (4-11-4, 3-6-1 SEC) and Vanderbilt (8-8-3, 5-4-1) tied 1-1 in double overtime Sunday at the Orange Beach Sportsplex, forcing penalty kicks to determine the advancing team. UF is now 3-3 in penalty kicks in its 27 SEC Tournament appearances.

"The effort was unbelievable until the very end," Florida coach Tony Amato said. "We were down a goal with under two minutes to go. I was really proud of how we fought all the way to the end and found a way to get the ball in the back of the net after 88 minutes of working really hard.

"So we were able to get the goal and then there's 20 extra minutes to play. And we dug deep for that. And although we didn't come up with a goal, I thought we did a good job in that 20 minutes. In the penalty shootout we had people step up who were really confident and composed."

The Gators will play the tournament's No. 2 seed, No. 12 Tennessee in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. The match airs live on the SEC Network. Florida lost 2-0 at Tennessee when the two teams met in regular-season action on Oct. 7.

The scoreless stretch was broken up in the 72nd minute when Vanderbilt's Madison Van Elwell hit a long strike to the upper slot.

Madison Alexander's goal in the 89th minute assured this would be the third consecutive overtime between the two programs. Florida's Super Senior duo again combined to score for the second time of the last three matches. Kit Loferski's deep cross to the far post was shouldered in by Alexander.

It was Alexander's fifth goal of the last six matches. Both Loferski and Alexander share UF's season goals lead at five each.

After two scoreless overtimes, penalty kicks decided the team moving onto SEC Tournament quarterfinal action. Both teams were successful in their first two penalty kicks but Vanderbilt's Abi Brighton opened the door with her high shot in the third position. Florida's next two shooters, Cameron Hall and Maddy Rhodes, both hit their shots to give UF a 4-3 advantage, with Rhodes going last.

When VU's Amber Nguyen stepped up for the Commodores final shot. Her attempt was wide, signaling Florida's celebration.

Volleyball

No. 23 Florida swept host Missouri on Saturday night to extend its win streak to three matches.  

Florida improves to 14-6 on the year and 8-2 in conference play, while Missouri dropped to 4-20 overall and 1-10.

The Gators took the first set handily, winning 25-10 and then followed with a comeback 25-23 victory in the second set. UF then clinched the match with a 25-22 win in the final set.

"In the typical SEC fashion – where we go on the road and the home team plays a very inspired, clean brand of volleyball – we had to really grind this one out," UF coach Mary Wise said.

Florida's offensive attack was led by two 13-kill performances from T'ara Ceasar and Thayer Hall. Lauren Forte followed with seven kills of her own, while Marlie Monserez added six.

Four Gators hit over .300 in the match: Monserez (.750 | 6-0-8), Ceasar (.440 | 13-2-25), Forte (.357 | 7-2-14) and Hall (.333 | 13-4-27). Monserez dished out 32 assists in the match, leading the team to a .354 clip.

Florida recorded 10.0 blocks and limited the Tigers to a .135 hitting percentage. Bre Kelley tied her career-high with six blocks, while Beason and Forte recorded five and four blocks, respectively.

Elli McKissock led the backcourt defense for the Gators with 16 digs, followed by 11 from Hall. Beason and Monserez each recorded six digs. Florida recorded four service aces, led by two from Monserez.

The Gators return to Exactech Arena to take on the No. 21 Tennessee on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Cross country

Parker Valby placed fourth individually at the SEC Championships hosted by Missouri on Friday. Valby and the rest of the women posted a sixth-place finish, while the men finished in seventh place.

Valby, the freshman out of Tampa, has been the top Gator finisher in every race she's competed in. She collected yet another personal record mark after running a 6k time of 20:11.8. Not only did she lead the race through the first 4,000 meters, but she claimed First Team All-SEC honors. She now ranks sixth all-time in Florida's SEC 6k history and 10th all-time in Florida's 6k record book among all courses.

Swimming

The Gators kicked off their 2021-22 home opener with a sweep over Georgia on Friday. The men won 180-120, while the women won 153-147.

The men won 10 out of the 16 events and the women won eight out of the 16 events.

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