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Abby Wambach turned in her ninth career hat-trick in UF's 3-1 win vs. Kentucky in the SEC Tournament

Friday November 9, 2001UF Soccer Advances to SEC Final w/ 3-1 win vs. UK

BATON ROUGE, La. -

Abby Wambach turned in her ninth career hat-trick in UF's 3-1 win vs. Kentucky in the SEC Tournament

Trailing by a goal, senior All-American Abby Wambach scored three goals to place the No. 10 University of Florida soccer team (16-3-1, 8-1 SEC) in its sixth consecutive Southeastern Conference Tournament final with a 3-1 victory over Kentucky (12-7-1, 5-4 SEC) in Friday’s first semifinal action. The Gators will now meet the winner of the Mississippi-Auburn match in Sunday’s final, set for 3:30 p.m. (ET) at the LSU Soccer Complex. That match will be televised live in the state of Florida on Sunshine and the match can also be heard live on GatorZone.com. Florida is the five-time defending SEC Tournament champion.

Kentucky’s Annie Gage gave the Wildcats the early lead at 16:46 when she scored off a five-yard shot. Following the play, UK junior Keri Boyce was carried off the field. Earlier in the match, Boyce appeared to suffer an injury to her right leg in a collision with UF’s Crystal Frimpong at 13:42. She tried to continue to play, but did not return after UK’s goal.

Wambach evened the score within two minutes, hitting a 10-yard header off a Karyn Hall free kick at 18:26. Florida’s next goal began when Danielle Rust took the ball a few steps past midfield and then sent a long pass from the left side into the box. Wambach connected on her second header at 32:20 to move the Gators into the lead.

Wambach’s final goal started when Dena Floyd sent the ball into the box, where Andi Sellers slipped the ball over to left to find Wambach running down the middle of the box. She finished the six-yard shot with her left foot to give UF the 3-1 lead. The hat trick was the ninth of Wambach’s career. Wambach, who collected her second consecutive SEC Player of the Year award at Wednesday’s tournament banquet, had her first collegiate hat trick at Kentucky as a freshman in 1998.

"The serves are why I can score goals. My teammates do a great job with their serves. And that combination that Andi and I had – she played the perfect ball," Wambach said. "It is special to score the goals, but it is more special to win the game. That is all I am concerned with – I really don’t care how many goals I score just as long as we have one more that the other team at the end of the match."

Florida Head Coach Becky Burleigh knew that this match would be much different than UF’s 5-1 victory over the Wildcats in early October.

"We didn’t really know what system Kentucky would play when they came out - their traditional 3-4-3 or would they play more conservatively and defensively, which they did in a 4-4-2. When they scored the first goal, it was a bit of a concern because we knew they were going to play so many people behind the ball. But for us to answer as quickly as we did I think was a key. The game ended 3-1 and we’re pretty happy because they never really came out of that system. To score three goals on that type of system is sometimes difficult. So we were happy with the result," Burleigh said. "Kentucky played hard the entire 90 minutes and they kept looking to be dangerous. It was a big blow to them when they lost Boyce out wide because they were hoping that she could match up speed-wise with Crystal (Frimpong, UF wide midfielder). It changed their game-plan a bit when she was unable to go, but I thought they played hard, very hard."

Florida outshot UK 18-7 for the match. UF goalkeeper Jordan Kellgren turned in two saves, while UK’s Beth Wells had eight saves.

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