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The Gators celebrate Erika Tymrak's team leading ninth goal as Florida defeated FGCU 2-0 Friday in NCAA play.

Friday November 9, 2012Gators Play Like a Contender in First-Round NCAA Win

Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators celebrate Erika Tymrak's team leading ninth goal as Florida defeated FGCU 2-0 Friday in NCAA play.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

On a cool and sun-splashed Friday afternoon at Pressly Stadium, the Gator soccer team hosted Florida Gulf Coast University in the first official match of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Division I Women’s Soccer Coaching Records –
by Victories (through Nov. 9, 2012 matches) –
Active & All-Time Coaches









Anson Dorrance







Len Tsantiris







Becky Burleigh







Jerry Smith







Randy Waldrum






If the Gators can put together a string of performances similar to their 2-0 win over the Eagles, they could be one of the final teams standing.

The Gators dominated from start to finish in winning for the 15th time in 16 matches, no more telling sign than the one in bright lights on the scoreboard at game's end. Shots: Florida 19, FGCU 0.

It was the first time all season an opponent failed to record a shot on the Gators.

While Eagles coach Jim Blankenship offered slight resistance to the official shot count, he quickly accepted what transpired over the previous 90 minutes.

"They are very good. The system they play is intriguing,'' said Blankenship, whose Eagles were knocked from the tournament by the Gators for the second consecutive season. "It's something we had not seen this year. It's everything we were told and better. I think that they are going to go a long way in this thing."

The system Blankenship is talking about is Florida's relentless quest to get the ball and keep it. The more the Gators have the ball, the more chances they have to score and less for the opponent.

Shortly after the 400th win of her career, Gators coach Becky Burleigh had little to be grumpy about other than maybe the timeliness of a seamstress somewhere. The Gators debuted their new orange-and-blue striped uniforms that were ordered before the season.

They finally arrived in time for Friday's match and made the Gators look even better.

"I loved them,'' Burleigh said.

She loved the way the Gators played even more, never letting up on the Atlantic-Sun Conference champions.

"We kept possession of the game for long stretches, so not more that we could really ask for,'' Burleigh said. "I think our team is really playing well right now in terms of the chemistry with each other, and especially offensively, starting to read one another. We had lots of chances."

Florida cashed in on two of its scoring opportunities. Both times senior midfielder Erika Tymrak played a role, scoring the game's first goal at the 21:10 with an assist from Adriana Leon.

It was Tymrak's fourth goal of the postseason after she scored three in the SEC Tournament.

"I was dribbling the ball and I saw [Adriana] at the top of the box and I played it to her,'' she said. "I kept on running and [Adriana] gave me a heel pass on another level. It was incredible what she did. She heeled it to me, I took a few touches, and I saw the far post open so I just hit it there."

It was Tymrak's turn to be playmaker on Florida's second goal, this one by Annie Speese with just under 14 minutes left in the match. Tymrak controlled the ball on the right side of the box, and drawing on the message Burleigh delivered at halftime -- she wanted to Gators to try crossing passes into the box to create more chances -- Tymrak did just that.

The Eagles had little answer for Tymrak all afternoon.

"She is a gifted kid,'' Blankenship said. "She's not a kid that comes around every day. It's a pleasure to watch, but not when she is playing us."

The Gators' offense was so good that goalkeeper Taylor Burke could have taken a nap during stretches of the match. Her counterpart, FGCU freshman Brittany Brown, made a career-high nine saves or the outcome could have been much worse.

Blankenship called it "a difficult day for us." The opposite can be said for the Gators, who were snake-bitten by injuries all season but continued to find ways to win.

They were without senior defensive midfielder Jo Dragotta (head injury) on Friday but Caroline Triglia filled in nicely with a season-high 79 minutes. The Gators not only escaped Friday without an injury, they got 2010 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Kathryn Williamson back on the field.

Williamson had not played since Sept. 2, missing the last 17 games due to a knee injury. When she entered the game midway in the first half, she received a nice round of applause from the crowd and contributed 33 minutes off the bench.

"I definitely was a little nervous,'' Williamson said. "I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get on."

Williamson did her job as did her teammates. When the Gators are going good, using their unconventional 4-2-3-1 formation, it looks something like Friday's win.

"Our goal is always to get the ball back as quickly as we can and just get back to possession,'' Speese said. "When we defend well as a team, it doesn't give them much of a break."

Added Burleigh: "It's pretty demoralizing when you are chasing the ball for a long period of time. And it's physically difficult. We wear teams down and I think that's evident in why our second halves are higher scoring halves."

The Gators (18-4-1) will face the Miami-UCF winner next week in the second round. They'll take Saturday off to rest and return to practice Sunday.

The goal is simple: continue to play like they did against FCGU.

"We've come a long way,'' Burleigh said. "Ultimately, we are confident in what we are doing. We feel that when we focus on ourselves that is when we feel we have our best results."

They made believers out of the Eagles.



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