Oct. 31, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia soccer team was done in by set pieces on Thursday night at the UGA Soccer Stadium, as No. 6 Florida came away with a 5-1 win with three UF goals coming outside the run of play. Thursday night marked Senior Night for the Bulldogs' eight departing players and represented the regular season finale, as Georgia now sits at 12-6-1 (5-5-1) entering the postseason.
The Bulldogs are guaranteed a spot in the upcoming 2013 SEC Championships next week in Orange Beach, Ala., but the team will not learn its seed or first opponent until the conclusion of all other league games this evening. Georgia can finish anywhere between sixth and eighth place in the standings, with the top six teams assured a bye through to Wednesday's quarterfinal round. The bottom four teams will begin first round play Monday.
Tonight's win guaranteed the Gators at least a share of the SEC regular season championship as well as the No. 1 seed in Orange Beach.
"Really, the only thing that's disappointing is the result," said head coach Steve Holeman. "This is going to sound absolutely ludicrous, and anyone who wasn't here to watch the game might think I'm crazy, but in the first half we really felt like we outplayed them and ended up down 4-0. We gave them three goals. Our team played incredibly well. We felt good at halftime - not with the score, obviously, but with the way our team came out and battled. We played hard and we caused them problems. The only thing I'm disappointed in is the final score."
The Bulldogs were not without their chances in the first half, and the home team came out of the gates firing as senior Madeline Barker had a left-footed shot sail just wide right only three minutes into the game. Freshman Marion Crowder had a shot saved by the keeper Taylor Burke just after that, and 10 minutes in Crowder sent another opportunity wide of the mark but Georgia unable to break through early.
The Gators then picked up their first goal down the other end, converting on their first shot of the game when defender Christen Westphaul fired a lofting free kick chance inside after a Georgia foul into danger. Keeper Caitlin Woody gambled to come out for it, but it skipped over her head and into the back of the net to give Florida the 1-0 lead in the 16th minute.
Florida ended up scoring on their first three shots of the night, going up 2-0 in the 26th minute when freshman Savannah Jordan finished a through ball from Havana Solaun into the back of the net for her team-high 19th goal of the season. The Gators pushed it to 3-0 when Solaun beat Woody off an intercepted pass in the 34th minute, and Jordan increased the UF lead to 4-0 just before halftime as she headed home a corner kick sent in by Solaun from the far side for the Gators' second set piece goal of the night.
The visitors took the 4-0 lead into the intermission, though they led just 7-6 in shots through the first frame.
Georgia would get on the board just five minutes after the break as freshman Rachel Garcia stole the ball from a Florida player and played it to the senior Barker, who beat Burke high to cut the lead to 4-1 with nearly the whole second half to play.
But the Gators added to the lead once again as the official blew his whistle for a UF penalty kick in the 66th minute, citing a UGA hand ball in the box, and Annie Speese converted on it to make it 5-1.
The Bulldogs continued to apply pressure on the Florida back line, and the squad's best chance from then on came when freshman Gabby Seiler had a header cleared out by Burke with a diving stop, and Georgia would get no closer as the Gators came away with the win.
In all, Florida and Georgia each took 12 shots, while the Gators narrowly edged the Bulldogs in corner kicks by a count of 5-4. Barker and Crowder led Georgia with four shots apiece. Woody finished with three saves.
The Bulldogs will learn their postseason fate later this evening when all other league games go final. Georgia will be making its eighth trip to the SEC Championships in the last nine seasons.