GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville women’s soccer team gave its best effort on Saturday, frustrating the Florida Gators for large stretches and denying many shots on goal. Unfortunately, the Dolphins were mostly unable to do much to counter the intense pressure they were under and eventually Florida was able to find a couple cracks in the JU defense, scoring a goal in each half to come away with a 2-0 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Atlantic Sun Tournament MVP Sarah Sierra was once again huge in goal for Jacksonville. The junior keeper made 12 saves on 26 Florida shots on the afternoon. Also making a huge impact for the Dolphins was the Atlantic Sun Defender of the Year, Ally Lee. In her final match wearing the Green & Gold, Lee negated Florida’s Savannah Jordan, keeping the scorer of 22 goals this season from finding the back of the net.
“I’m very proud of our effort today,” said Head Coach Brian Copham. “We knew it was going to be a tough task; we knew it was a good, athletic team that we were up against. We competed for the entire 90 minutes, battled for every ball in the air, every ball that was crossed in. Sarah (Sierra) made a lot of big saves for us and helped us keep a lot of situations from turning into trouble.”
Jacksonville’s chances took a hit within the first 15 minutes when Joy Grove went up for a ball off of a goal kick and landed awkwardly. She would not return, turning the attacking midfield role over to Jessica Cataldo-Ramirez and Adriana Rodrigues for the remainder of the match.
Though Florida spent much of the first half sniffing around the Jacksonville goal, the Dolphins remained organized and kept the Gators off the board for the first half-hour. UF broke through in the 31st minute, but not in the way it had been threatening for the majority of the match. Tessa Andujar scored her first goal of the season to break the deadlock, finding a corner of the net on a shot that appeared more like a cross but stayed out of the reach of Sierra to give Florida the 1-0 lead at halftime.
Florida doubled its lead in the 56th minute almost directly off a corner kick that was curled in by Annie Speese. Meggie Dougherty Howard was credited with the goal, just getting a touch on it to sneak it past Sierra.
That 2-0 lead would hold up the rest of the way as the Gators continued to apply pressure but couldn’t come up with any additional goals. With the rest of the team forced to hang back to reduce Florida’s offensive chances, Kaitlyn Bassett was often isolated up top for JU and unable to come up with her usual magic, ending the day with two shots, including Jacksonville’s lone shot on goal in the match.
“In games like today, it comes down to little things,” said Bassett. “They are bigger, more skilled girls than us. We put our best foot forward and put a lot of effort in today, and I think we gave them a run for their money.”
“I’m also incredibly proud of our seniors,” continued Copham. “Brooke Comans, Adriana Rodrigues and Ally Lee have put in a ton of effort to get us to where we are today and they’ve left the program in better shape than when they arrived.”