Leon scores 39th-minute goal to propel No. 18 Florida past No. 5 Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- No. 18 Florida (10-3-1, 7-1 SEC) garnered a 2-1 win at No. 5 Texas A&M (12-2-1, 6-1-1 SEC) on Sunday. The Gators ended the Aggies’ 12-match unbeaten streak and its 18-match home unbeaten streak.
Play by the Gators was a bit sloppy in the opening minutes, evidenced by A&M being awarded three corner kicks in the first 12 minutes. Once the Gators found their rhythm, they started to put pressure on the Aggies goal.
“I thought we were a little rattled at the beginning of the game. Our composure wasn’t where we wanted it to be,” UF head coach Becky Burleigh said. “It didn’t help that A&M had several corners in a row – that’s a strength of A&M. I think that was in part what rattled us. But once we got a hold of the ball a little bit and kept our possession going that gave us some confidence to keep it going.”
But it was the Aggies who scored first off a set piece in the 22nd minute. Sophomore Shea Groom headed in a corner kick at the post off the assist from Beth West.
The Gators began to mount their fourth come-from-behind victory of the season with a goal off a set piece of their own seven minutes later.
Senior Erika Tymrak was fouled just outside the right side of the Aggies box. The free kick taken by Jo Dragotta scored at the far post in the 29th minute, aided by fellow senior McKenzie Barney's distractive run in the box causing confusion right above the goal.
“The credit completely goes to McKenzie Barney. It wouldn’t have gone in if she didn’t do that tricky play and let it go between her legs,” Dragotta said. “They weren’t expecting that and that allowed the ball to score. The credit goes to her for sure.”
It was Dragotta’s second goal of the season and of her career.
“What we were trying to do is play that ball in what we call the ‘corridor of indecision’. It is a tough ball for a keeper because it is a ball where she has to decide to come out or not. When you put the ball there, good things usually happen whether we get on the end of it or not. So that was one of those balls,” Dragotta said.
The go-ahead goal started again off a set piece. Tymrak tapped a pass off the free kick to Havana Solaun located at left side of box. Solaun returned the pass to Tymrak, who dribbled to eight yards and sent a centering pass to junior Adriana Leon located in the box. Leon pounded the ball into the roof of the net from 10 yards in the 39th minute.
“I don’t remember too much about the play,” Leon said. “I do remember Erika passing the ball to inside the box. I just ran onto it and kicked it as hard as I could into the net.”
It was Leon’s third goal of the season with all coming in the last six matches.
A strong team defensive effort helped the Gators limit the Aggies to a single goal for the third time this season.
“I think there were up and down in the game. There were a few times we lost our focus, but overall, I think we did a great job of keeping our focus and keeping our composure,” junior outside back Taylor Travis said. “The coaches talked to us about different changes, movements and tactics at halftime and we adjusted to that so we had an even stronger second half defensively.”
The Gators had opportunities to add to their lead in the second half. Burleigh said that perhaps would have changed the final minutes of the match as the Aggies pushed to get the tying goal.
“There was a good stretch in the second half where we really had it going – probably should have had a third goal. But that didn’t happen due to some good defending and goalkeeping by A&M. I think that would have changed the nature of the game, especially at the end,” Burleigh said. “But ultimately to come on the road and get this win is what we were looking for and I’m glad we did it.”