Gainesville, FL - Three goals from the Gators’ top two goal
scorers gave the No. 2 regional seed University of Florida soccer team
(19-2-2, 9-1-1 SEC) a 3-0 win over Mercer (10-9-1, 7-3 A-Sun) in NCAA
Opening Round action held Friday in front of a James G. Pressly Stadium crowd of 1,018.
Florida will now face Duke, who claimed a 2-1 win over California in
Friday’s other match at the Gainesville site, on Sunday, Nov. 14.
Match time is set for 1 p.m. at Pressly Stadium. Florida and Duke played to a 1-1 double overtime tie when the two teams met in Durham, N.C., on Sept. 17. Tickets are $7 for adults, while tickets for children 12 and under, students and senior citizens are $3. The first 200 UF students showing a Gator 1 identification card are admitted free.
The first goal of the match came off a long serve out of the back.
Sophomore Kathryn Williamson started the attack from the midway point of the Florida half. She looked up and served a ball deep into the Mercer half. Sophomore McKenzie Barney timed her run perfectly, allowing her to run onto the ball and score from seven yards on her 1v1 opportunity with the Bears’ goalkeeper.
It was the first collegiate assist for the Southeastern Conference
Defensive Player of the Year and Barney said the ball Williamson played
her was a beauty.
“It is an awesome feeling, to start it off right (with UF’s first
score),” Barney said. “It was Kat’s (Kathryn Williamson) first
career assist too, so she was pretty psyched about that. You can’t ask
for a better ball. It lofted exactly the right way in a perfect place
and just beat their defense. All I had to do was control it and put it
in. It was a great ball.”
Florida scored early in the second half. Erika Tymrak brought the ball
down near the top of the box and sent it left for Lindsay Thompson
located just inside the box. Thompson tapped the ball wide for Tahnai
Annis, who put in her 13th goal of the season from 18 yards.
For Annis, it was not a shot she usually looks for, but she saw an
opportunity and took it.
“It was a great buildup from beginning to end and normally I probably
wouldn’t shoot that ball but it looked really good,” Annis said.
“I knew if I probably took a touch that I would lose my angle or
someone was going to step in for a hard tackle. I just took a deep
breath and try to stay composed when I struck it. It was one of those
shots that felt right, right when I struck it.”
The Gators final goal started off a corner kick. Nicky Kit played a
short ball to Tymrak who brought the ball toward the box and then sent a cross in. The ball deflected off a Mercer player but continued to travel
toward the far post. The ball found Barney at the far post and her
four-yard shot hit the post and kicked in for her team-leading 14th goal
of the season. Her 14 goals are the most for a Gator since All-American
Stephanie Freeman posted 17 in the 2004 season.
A focus on team defense helped lead to the pair of second half goals,
said sophomore Erika Tymrak. She turned in two assists Friday, marking Tymrak’s third match of the season with two or more assists.
“I think we played well. At halftime, one of the things that we
talked about was hard team defense and when you defend well as a team, that leads to offense,” Tymrak said. “We put away two goals in the second half and I think it was because of our team defense.”
Senior goalkeeper Katie Fraine returned to the Gator starting lineup
Friday after sitting out Sunday’s Southeastern Conference Tournament
Championship match with a groin injury. She turned in two saves as she
extended her school-record of solo shutouts to 26. One of the saves came off a 1v1 opportunity in the 54th minute when Emerald Phillips made a charge into the left side of the box. Fraine came out to close down the angle and made the stop on Phillips’ 12-yard shot.
UF Head Coach Becky Burleigh is happy to advance and knows every round has tension.
“I think every round is different. The first round is kind of like
just get your first round jitters out. I know we just faced a
one-and-done situation in the SEC but it is still not the finality of
the NCAA tournament,” Burleigh said. “I think just having that first
game under our belt helps a lot but I also think that the competition
level steps up with either of those two teams that we would face. It’s
just a matter of being on point in terms of offense and defense for