No. 10 Florida Claims SEC Title with 3-0 Win Over No. 13 USC
Oct. 30, 2009
GAINESVILLE, Fla. Knowing that only a win would guarantee the Southeastern Conference title would stay in Gainesville, the No. 10 University of Florida soccer team (14-4-2, 8-1-2 SEC) shut out No. 13 South Carolina (15-3-1, 7-3-1 SEC) 3-0 in the regular-season finale Friday evening in front of a James G. Pressly Stadium crowd of 3,104. The title is the fourth consecutive for the Gators and the 10th in the program's 15-year history.
Florida entered tonight's match with a one-point lead over South Carolina and LSU in the league standings. The win pushes Florida's final point total to 26 points. LSU took second in the final SEC standings with 25 points after its 4-1 win at Arkansas Friday.
Adding a fourth ring to the hands of Florida's six-member senior class was a goal for this Gator team and the effort of the freshmen class played a big role in tonight's win. All of Florida's goals were scored by freshmen and the first two assists came from a freshman.
The freshmen duo of McKenzie Barney and Erika Tymrak combined on both of Florida's first half goals. The first started when Angela Napolitano sent the ball into the box. Barney flicked it to Tymrak, who took a 12-yard shot from the left side of the box. The ball kicked off the cross bar but Barney continued her run through the box and was able to place the rebound in from four yards in the 20th minute.
"Erika Tymrak had an amazing shot. It was a little high so I thought I should definitely follow it up," Barney said. "It was being in the right place at the right time - it came right to me. If I wouldn't have scored I don't know what I would have done but it literally was all Erika's work."
Just five minutes later, Tymrak made a nice move above the box to shake her defender. She brought the ball down into the box and her centering pass found Barney just above the penalty spot. Barney had space and time so she moved left in the box, hitting a seven-yard shot to the far post.
"At the top of the box Erika had committed defenders to her so she slipped me the ball because I was open. She could have taken the shot; it was completely unselfish of her," Barney said. "I just recognized that the defender coming on to me was over playing it a little bit so I took a touch and she went past me. I had an open right corner and I just placed it in there."
Barney has turned in three double-goal matches this season - versus Vanderbilt, versus then No. 17 LSU and versus No. 13 South Carolina. She is second among the Gators with seven goals and tied for third with 15 points.
The final goal came when senior Lauren Hyde sent a 35-yard free kick into the box. Freshman Holly King headed the ball into the center of the goal from 12-yards at 87:03. It was King's third goal of the season and second consecutive scored off a header.
It was Hyde who challenged King to try to connect with the end of the free ball.
"Every time Lauren hits a long ball and I'm in (the match), she always tells me to be in the box. She always calls out my name," King said. "She plays the prettiest balls so I try with everything I have to get on the end of them. This time I got lucky because I flicked it back and it went right over the keeper."
Winning the SEC title is always on Florida's list of season goals, UF Head Coach Becky Burleigh said.
"It's huge. When you play for Florida, that's the number one thing, to win the SEC. When you win the SEC, good things follow after that, so this is just a first step for us in terms of our post-season play going forward. It's a really big step," Burleigh said. "I'm really happy that we won this and especially happy for the seniors to get four in a row - it says a lot about their class."
Hyde, who has played a considerable number of minutes in Florida's 35 SEC regular season wins during her collegiate career, hopes that the returning players can keep the title streak going in future seasons.
"It's awesome. I couldn't have done it with a better team. For us seniors it's quite an accomplishment to win it all four years and all of us are so happy to win it," Hyde said. "Hopefully the rest of the team can carry this on in the years to come."
The shutout was Florida's eighth of the season and fourth consecutive. UF goalkeeper Katie Fraine recorded two saves Friday. The first came when the Gamecocks were awarded a free kick just above the 18-yard box. Kim Miller took the shot, but Fraine ended the play by cleanly catching the ball. In the 74th minute, USC scoring leader Kayla Grimsley ran onto a ball sent from the USC half. She got ahead of her defender but Fraine came off her line to make the stop on Grimsley's eight-yard shot. Fraine credited her backline for limiting the USC opportunities Friday.
"I think my defense has helped me out a lot," Fraine said. "The amount of shots that are coming in are a lot less and are easier to handle so I have to attribute a lot of that to them."
Burleigh also credited the defensive effort of the entire Gator team Friday.
"I think that our defense played really well tonight and again, not just the defenders. The defenders and the keeper played great but the whole team played defense. That effort is what's really helping us at this point," Burleigh said.
The Gators now head to the SEC Tournament which begins Wednesday, Nov. 4 in Orange Beach, Ala. Florida will open play with defending SEC Tournament champion Tennessee (8-8-3, 4-5-2 SEC) on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. (ET). The Gators have won eight SEC Tournament titles with the last coming in 2007.