Goal Keeper Alexa Goldberg (5) recovers from a shot on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators were defeated by Missouri State University 0-1. (Sydney Johnson/WRUF)

Florida Soccer Team Takes Down Auburn, 1-0

The Florida Gators soccer team kept their season alive Thursday with a 1-0 win against the visiting Auburn Tigers. A late goal in the first half secured the win, earned the Gators a vital three points in the SEC and a league-best 200th all-time win.

A First-Half Battle

Both teams came out strong by creating multiple chances from the start. Auburn’s first chance came in the 9th minute off a corner kick. Despite a vital clear by the Gators’ backline, a cross back into the box from Auburn’s Maddie Simpson forced goalie Alexa Goldberg to come up with a diving save.

It didn’t take long for the Gators (6-6-4, 2-5-2 SEC) to answer. Midway through the first half, the Gators found themselves in front of the Tigers’ net with an open goal. But a diving slide by the backline stopped Florida from converting.

After that, the Gators kept the ball in Auburn’s half by forcing multiple shots on goal and taking control as halftime approached.

But the momentum shifted with 10 seconds to go in the first half. A foul by the Tigers (6-6-4, 2-4-2) gave the Gators one last chance before going into the locker room. A ball played in by Florida defender Daviana Vaka was mishandled by Auburn’s goalkeeper and Lena Bailey was there to finish it with her fourth of the season.

“One of my teammates hit it out while the goalie was trying to get it and I just kicked it, megged someone, and that’s all I can remember,” Bailey said. “Going into the game, I always try to be the spark and I think the spark just made the goal.”

Coach Samantha Bohon said she thought it was key to lead at the break.

“We put Lena Bailey in with three minutes left and that’s kind of in her wheelhouse,” Bohon said. “She just hunts out things like that. In the SEC, goals are really hard to come by.

“You saw Arkansas score a goal like that on us in the opening of the second half, so it’s nice to be on the receiving end this time and put one in the back of the net.”

Second-Half Momentum

The Gators began the second half with momentum.  Florida recorded four shots on goal and one corner in the second half. The Gators had multiple chances by forcing Auburn’s goalkeeper to come up big in the final 45 minutes.

Florida only allowed the Tigers to have four shots on goal in the second half and seven in the game.

Auburn was able to get a couple of chances in the last five minutes of play, but it wasn’t enough to get by Goldberg or the Florida backline, who played a huge part in the win.

A dangerous opportunity came for the Tigers with four minutes to play. Auburn got off a strike on goal to the upper right corner, but it was denied by Goldberg when she tipped it over the goal.

“It took a special moment with Lex Goldberg to pull that one out, but we are grateful to have three points and moving forward,” Bohon said.

Despite what seemed to be threatening chances for the Tiger, the offense struggled to stay onside. Auburn was called for offsides eight times in the game with a majority of the calls coming in the final minutes of the second half.

“In the last five, we call it the big five, we gotta go big every time we get the ball,” Daviana Vaka said. “They actually did have a couple of chances and the backline caused a lot of offsides because we were staying as a unit. So, that really helped a ton.”

Next Up

The Gators are back on the road traveling to Nashville to face Vanderbilt on Sunday. Florida needs a win against the Commodores to keep the momentum going and give it crucial three points in wrapping up the regular season Thursday.

“Our goal was to always have something to play for in the last week of regular season,” Bohon said. “We were mathematically eliminated a lot sooner last year, so the simple fact that we are going into the last week with something to play for and a chance to make the SEC Tournament is really signs of growth.”

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