Nov. 6, 2010

Courtesy of Florida

- Three goals from junior Lindsay Thompson sends the No. 7 University of Florida soccer team (17-2-2, 9-1-1 SEC) to the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship match after the Gators posted a 3-1 win over Georgia (11-6-4, 5-3-3 SEC) in the tournaments semifinal round Friday at the Orange Beach SportsPlex.

The Gators lead all league programs with eight SEC Tournament titles, but this will be UFs first appearance in the championship match since it won its last title in 2007.

Florida will now face No. 17 South Carolina (14-4-4, 8-2-1 SEC) in Sundays final match, which is set to air live on ESPNU (Gainesville/Ocala Cox Cable channel 251) at 3 p.m. ET. The Gamecocks, the defending SEC Tournament champion, advanced to the final with 3-2 penalty kick advantage after playing LSU to a 1-1 double overtime tie. Dating back to the 2009 SEC Tournament final, the last three Gamecock SEC Tournament appearances have all gone to penalty kicks, which includes the 2009 final as USC and LSU tied at 1-1 2OT and USC prevailed 8-7 in PKs.

When Florida and Georgia met earlier this season in regular-season play, the Bulldogs struck first, but two late goals - including the golden goal - from sophomore Erika Tymrak gave UF the 2-1 OT win on Oct. 17. Fridays match seemed to be following the same script, as it was the Bulldogs who struck again first early in the opening half. UGA All-SEC first team selection, freshman Alexa Newfield, tucked in the cross from Rebekah Perry in at the far post at 6:02.

But unlike the first meeting when the span between UGAs goal and Floridas tying goal was 70 minutes, tonight the Gators knotted the score just 27 seconds later. The Gators took ball down the right side of the Bulldog box. Tymrak served a ball into the box where the sliding foot of Lindsay Thompson placed it in at the far post at 6:29.

The ball was just bouncing around in the top of the 18 and Erika ended up with it. I saw that the back four were on the top of the 18 so there was room behind. I pointed and Erika saw me,” Thompson said. She played the perfect ball right behind them but in front of the keeper enough so I could touch it and slide it in to the far post.”

UF Head Coach Becky Burleigh said after the match that Thompsons second goal was her favorite of the three. Tymrak sent the ball from the middle of the field out wide to McKenzie Barney, who was deep in the Bulldog half. Barney one-touched the ball into the box where it found the head of Thompson, who placed it in at the top right corner.

The second goal was my favorite. It was just a terrific goal,” Burleigh said. She did a great job of standing the girl up, playing the one-two and the movement off the ball was awesome.”

Floridas final goal came in the 88th minute off a counter attack. Tymrak brought the ball down the left side of the field, drawing the two Bulldog defenders to her. Thompson was open on the right so Tymrak sent the ball to her and Thompson scored on her 1v1 opportunity with the Georgia goalkeeper. For Tymrak, it was her third assist of the evening and she now shares the Gator assists lead at 11 with freshman Taylor Travis.

It was all Lindsay. She made all the runs and I just slipped her one on the runs,” Tymrak said. On the last one, I got it on the outside and I just took off. Lindsay was wide open so I just passed it to her. She did all the work.”

The Gators did make a change in goal at halftime as senior Katie Fraine, who suffered a groin injury earlier in the season, aggravated the injury in yesterdays match. Junior Brooke Chancey replaced Fraine at half and registered her first significant playing time of her career. Chancey was immediately challenged as she recorded the save on Ashley Millers shot from just inside the box in the 48th minute. Perhaps the most dangerous of Chanceys four saves Friday came when Carli Shultis took a quick, hard shot inside the box in the 69th minute.

Chancey said this is a moment she has been preparing for.

We knew going into it that Fraine has the injured groin. They told me to be ready. At halftime, Rob (Liessem, UFs volunteer coach who oversees the goal keepers) gave me the look and I knew it was time for me to go outside and warm up,” Chancey said. It definitely boosts my confidence knowing my coach and teammates have faith in me. McKenzie Barney came up to me and told me she had so much confidence in me and that really helped me out a lot.”

In yesterdays match, Florida scored twice in the final six minutes to take a 5-3 win over Vanderbilt. Today the Gators were again challenged as the team needed to come back from an early deficit. Burleigh likes what the Gators have shown in these situations.

I like that trait about this team. We seem to be very resilient in terms of if we face adversity, we seem to overcome it,” Burleigh said. I think that is a big character trait of this team.”

The tournaments opening round of play was delayed 24 hours due to unplayable field conditions at the Orange Beach SportsPlex on Wednesday after the area received heavy rains over a two-day period. The teams played back-to-back matches, which was tournaments format until the 2006 season when it went to a Wednesday-Friday-Sunday playing schedule. Florida is looking forward to Saturdays day off.

We definitely need the day off. Im sure well take full advantage of that so well be ready to go on Sunday,” Burleigh said, but she pointed out the team is well prepared for such situations thanks to their conditioning program.

I think Karin Werth (UF soccers strength and conditioning coordinator) deserves the credit for that,” Burleigh said. She gets the team ready to go and to be this fresh this late in the season is a direct relation to her.”