After being two straight years at the top of the conference, the SEC-Tournament dominance by the Florida Gators has come to an end. The Gators fell short against the Texas A&M Aggies in the semifinals in a humid night at Orange Beach, Alabama. It was a 2-1 overtime victory that allows the Aggies to face the Arkansas Razorbacks in the final of the tournament.
After scoring the winning goal and having a great performance against the Auburn Tigers on Tuesday, Lais Araujo was part of the Gator starting lineup; her presence offered versatility to the Gators on offense. It allowed players like Mayra Pelayo and Madison Alexander to have a better time exploiting spaces in the last third.
At the beginning of the game, the Gators had struggles once again against the high pressuring on their build-ups. Players like Mikaela Harvey and Rheagen Smith did a fantastic job at blocking the vision of the Gator backline. That allowed the Aggies to recover the ball and engage on the counterattacks in a quicker way.
For most of the first half, the Aggies found the way to exploit the open spaces between the Gator defenders multiple times. It gave them the opportunity to create a couple of dangerous chances that were saved by Kaylan Marckese.
Florida Changed its System, But It Was not Enough
The Gators changed their playing scheme quickly to take advantage of the wings in a better way. Florida started to attack the last third and penetrate the box from several directions. It created a disorganization in the Aggie backline that was reflected in the 29th minute. Sarah Troccoli opened the scoring after making a long shot off a deflection by the Aggie defenders in the central edge of the box. This was Troccoli’s third goal of the season.
Texas A&M controlled most of the game during the second half. Once again, Texas A&M’s forwards looked faster than the Gator defenders at making decisions and on transitions.
In the 69th minute of the game, Smith took advantage of a positional misread by the Gator backline. She beat the defenders on the run while driving the ball and beat Marckese in the one-on-one situation.
The game ended up getting to overtime. An overtime that went away very fast. Texas A&M started overtime very aggressively on offense. Marckese looked like the hero for the Gators after saving two straight chances in a less than five seconds. Unfortunately for the Gators, the Aggies ended up winning the game a minute later. Texas A&M scored thanks to a head deflection by Sara Wilson on a set piece that ended up as an own goal.
The Gators will now await an NCAA Tournament bid; the field will be announced on Monday.