The Maneater

Gators shut out Tigers in Mizzou soccer’s final home game

An offside call late in the game deflated the Tigers’ hopes of coming back.

In the final game of the Southeastern Conference regular season, Florida (13-4, 8-3) outlasted Missouri (11-6-1, 6-4-1) 1-0.

“When we are down, we fight back,” coach Bryan Blitz said. “We never quit against a good Florida team, well coached. The nice thing I think for our team is we are excited to see them in less than a week.”

This game determined the final two spots for the SEC tournament, as Florida finished the No. 4 seed and Mizzou as the No. 5. These two teams will square off again at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the second round of the SEC tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Junior Melanie Donaldson said a key going forward was staying focused throughout the game.

“We had some brain lapses there,” Donaldson said. “Obviously they countered on us and scored a goal.”

Despite outshooting Florida early and creating opportunities, Missouri played a game with an odd feel to it. Mizzou’s aggressiveness defensively was clearly being matched by the Gators. But Florida, the No. 17 ranked team in the nation, couldn’t prevent Mizzou from taking five shots and five corner kicks within the first 15 minutes. Florida did a great job early, though, of blanketing Sarah Luebbert, pushing her farther and farther from the post.

A key moment in the game came in the middle of the first period, when Florida goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese denied a chip shot from junior Jessica Johnson.

“We always feel like we have some opportunities,” Blitz said. “Their defense did a good job. I think we got opportunities, but we just shot and needed to be more composed in the first half to finish our chances.”

Despite opportunities to score, Mizzou just couldn’t finish. Luebbert, Mizzou’s leading scorer, only had two shots in the first half.

After clearing a corner kick right outside of the box, Florida’s Julia Lester took the rebound and placed it right outside sophomore Kelsey Dossey’s outstretched hands for a goal in the top right corner in the 35th minute. This deflating moment came after four Dossey saves that half.

“She didn’t have her best game at Georgia,” Blitz said. “She really took the challenge, that ‘I was going make sure and show my team that I wasn’t going to have a performance like that.’ She was outstanding today. She saved us in the first half.”

But to start the second half, Florida began to really sink their teeth in defensively, and the Gators took control of the game, though they were unable to score again thanks to Dossey’s strong play.

The biggest play of the game was an offside call on a corner kick in the 81st minute. This canceled a header from Donaldson that would have tied the game up 1-1 late.

“That was definitely frustrating because it was a close game,” Donaldson said. “Both teams were good and everyone was working their butts off. So it’s really disappointing and frustrating but it will count in Orange Beach hopefully.”

Donaldson said getting to play the same team again in just a few days is a “super big advantage.”

“We haven’t had two losses in a row, so we are kinda building off that,” Donaldson said. “Just remembering exactly how they play three or four days later is definitely an advantage. But just as much for them too. So it’s just which team is going to be smarter and figure it out.”

Edited by George Roberson | groberson@themaneater.com

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