Nov. 6, 2010
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. --- The Georgia soccer team struck first but allowed three unanswered goals in a 3-1 loss to top-seeded Florida as the Bulldogs saw their SEC Championships run come to an end Friday night in semifinal action at the Orange Beach Sportsplex.
All three of the Gator goals came via junior Lindsay Thompson, scoring the first hat trick on the Bulldogs since Sept. 25, 2009. Tonight was the first time this season the Dogs allowed three goals in a game.
Georgia falls to 11-6-4 on the season while the Gators jump to 17-2-2. The Bulldogs are now 10-13-1 all-time in the SEC Tournament and have reached the semis in three of the last four seasons.
"Obviously we pressed at the end there in the last five minutes and left basically one in the back, but we had to press for the equalizer, Florida countered and got a goal," said head coach Steve Holeman. "I don't think you can say that they were two goals better than us. We're very disappointed to get that first goal and then give one up a minute later."
"We played extremely well tonight, and I thought we were the better team. We had incredible possession and played one of our best games of the season."
Georgia found the scoreboard just 6:02 into the contest to take a 1-0 lead, similar to Georgia's early goal just 12 minutes in back on Oct. 16 when the teams met in Gainesville. The play unfolded when defender Rebekah Perry worked herself free on the right side and took advantage of open space to send a beautiful cross over the goal mouth. An awaiting Alexa Newfield hammered it into the back of the net past keeper Katie Fraine for her eighth of the season. Perry was credited with her second helper of the year.
But the lead wouldn't last long as the Gators answered just 27 seconds later to knot it at one all. Thompson took a pass from Erika Tymrak and sent it past Georgia netminder Ashley Baker from 12 yards out on the right for her sixth of the season.
After a takeaway in the midfield, Newfield fired a shot high with 33 minutes to play in the first. Newfield had another one saved as the clock ticked past 23 minutes, but her look was saved to set up a corner kick, which Florida handled.
Thompson struck again in the 26th minute as Tymrak tapped the ball to McKenzie Barney, who sent a cross over from the right. Thompson sent it home from just beyond the six to push the Gators ahead 2-1 with 19:28 left in the opener.
Freshman Meghan Gibbons had one go high with 12:05 to play in the first half after a nice Georgia sequence saw the Bulldogs bring it coast to coast to set up the rookie's shot. Fellow freshman Carli Shultis had a shot saved as the first half came to a close with the Bulldogs still looking at the 2-1 deficit.
With just about four minutes elapsed after halftime, Traci Dreesen had her shot blocked and Nicole Locandro's second-effort opportunity was rejected by Brooke Chancey - who played the second half in goal for the Gators in just her second appearance of the season.
Georgia did not quit and continued to unload on Chancey in search of the equalizer. With the clock hovering around 30 minutes, defender Torri Allen picked a spot to challenge offensively and had a shot blocked before Gibbons' follow-up was saved. Another big chance for the Dogs came as Dreesen sent a low liner in that Chancey handled with under 17 left. Dreesen used a nifty move to fight her way free on the left with around 13 to go, and the senior's cross was served to Locandro, but the rookie's shot was deflected by the UF back line and out of trouble.
Shifting Allen to the front line and slipping Jenna Buckley into the back line, Georgia got a nice run out of Allen with under four on the clock and the freshman found Newfield on the left but a cross was unable to find a Georgia player as it rolled out the other side.
The Gators then added their third goal in the 88th minute although it came as a result of Georgia sending more weapons up top. With 2:51 on the clock Thompson completed the hat trick as she took a pass from Tymrak that beat Bailey Powell - the lone Bulldog defender sitting back. Thompson was then left alone in front of Baker and fired it over her head for the 3-1 lead that would seal Florida's spot in Sunday's SEC title game against the two-seed South Carolina.
Georgia again led in shots, 13-12, at game's end, while corners were knotted at five all. Baker registered a pair of saves, one per half, while Fraine and Chancey combined for six down the other end. Newfield's four shots led the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs will await their NCAA Tournament fate as the 64-team field will be announced Monday, Nov. 8 at 4:30 p.m.
"I think we showed throughout the season that we are one of the top teams in the country," Holeman said. "We finished fourth in a very, very good conference. I think the SEC is good enough to have five teams make the [NCAA Tournament] and I think we should be one of them."