Nov. 23, 2008

From Florida Athletics

The No. 2 regional seed Florida soccer team (19-4-1, 11-0 SEC) saw its season end with a 2-1 loss to No. 3 regional seed Texas A&M (18-4-1, 7-2-1 Big 12) Sunday afternoon in NCAA Championship Round of 16 action held at the James G. Pressly Stadium.

The win advances Texas A&M to its first NCAA Quarterfinal since 2006 where it will meet No. 1 seed North Carolina (22-1-2, 9-0-1) on Friday, Nov. 28 at 2 p.m. in Chapel Hill, N.C. This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. UNC took a 3-2 win in College Station, Texas, on Aug. 29.

Sunday's win increases the Aggies' advantage in the all-time series to 4-1. This was the first meeting between the two teams since 2000 and Texas A&M has taken each of the three meetings at Pressly Stadium.

Florida scored on its first shot of the match. The ball was thrown in from deep in the Aggie half to Angela Napolitano. She brought the ball through on the end line and was able to get a cross off that Liz Ruberry finished at the far post corner. It was Ruberry's first goal of the season and her first since Oct. 14, 2007 at Mississippi State.

"Angela [Napolitano] did a great job of working the line. She beat her player and was able to slip the ball in," Ruberry said. "We had many people in the box and I was just the one who connected with it."

But in a flash the Aggies tied the match and then scored the game-winning goal. Rebecca Herrera served up a corner kick that Jennifer Kmezich was able head to Laura Robinson. She scored from two yards at 39:12. Just 46 seconds later, the Aggies scored the go-ahead goal after Texas A&M gained control of the ball about 35 yards above the Florida goal. Beth West sent the ball to Kmezich, who scored from seven yards at 39:58.

As quick as those goals came, it wasn't the fastest back-to-back Aggie goals this season. Texas A&M scored twice in a 14-second span in their 3-1 win against Indiana on Aug. 31.

Florida had won five of the seven previous matches it had trailed at halftime this season, so UF Head Coach Becky Burleigh knew the Gators didn't feel the match was out of reach.

"I think that it was a little bit of a downer to give up two late goals. So that's probably why there was a lack of energy on our end going into halftime," Burleigh said. "I think we came out of the locker room like we'd been doing all year. We've been down before and came back so our players knew that we were capable of doing that. I think that's where the energy was coming from out of the locker room."

The Gators put more pressure on the A&M goal in the second half, increasing its shots from two to nine in the final 45 minutes. But the Gators couldn't find the tying goal. From the top of the box in the 78th minute, Megan Kerns' pass found Ameera Abdullah in the box. The ball was deflected by an Aggie defender and Abdullah shot attempt on the spinning ball went high. Freshman Lindsay Thompson's shot from the top of the box in the 83rd minute hit the crossbar and went out over the end line.

Florida continued pushing in the final minutes. Abdullah was taken from the field with just under two minutes remaining with a left ankle injury suffered when A&M's Kelly Dyer came off her line to clear the ball in the box and the two collided. Florida's final shot, a 20-yard shot in the 90th minute by Nicky Kit was just wide of the far post.

"I was pretty sure we were going to score," Kerns said. "It felt like we had our chances. We hit the cross bar and missed it by inches. We had our chances and it just didn't fall our way this game."

This was Florida's third consecutive NCAA Round of 16 appearance and the team was looking to advance to its first NCAA Quarterfinal since 2003. In 2008, Florida won its third consecutive Southeastern Conference title and became the first since the league moved to round-robin play in 2004 to post an 11-0 SEC record.