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Thursday November 5, 1998Florida Opens SEC Tournament with Win Over SC

Tuscaloosa, AL

The No. 4 University of Florida women’s soccer team opened play Thursday at the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a decisive 6-0 win over South Carolina. The win ups Florida’s record to 19-1, while South Carolina bows out of the tournament with an 11-6-1 season record. The match was played in front of an Alabama Varsity Soccer Field crowd of 203, with gusty winds and temperatures in the high 50s.

The Gators came into Thursday’s match wary of the Gamecocks due to the first meeting between the two teams on Oct. 25. Although the Gators took a 4-2 win away from Columbia, UF trailed the Gamecocks 2-1 at halftime. This time, Florida started a scoring flurry midway through the first half when freshman Abby Wambach hit the chip shot off of Danielle Fotopoulos’ cross at 22:23. Senior Erin Baxter scored again for UF at 30:15, heading the ball into the goal off freshman Karyn Hall’s corner kick. Fotopoulos finished off the first half scoring at 41:42, hitting a 10-yard shot off the USC deflection.

"I think we came out a little more prepared this time," Fotopoulos said. "We also put away our chances to score today, which is something we didn’t do the last time we met. We were disappointed in our effort the last time we played USC, so we wanted to improve on that performance. Also, this is the SEC Tournament and we want to make a statement. Coming out and playing strong and finishing our chances helps do that."

"I think that we came out with a more solid performance in the beginning. When we played USC earlier this year, we got behind in that match twice," UF Head Coach Becky Burleigh said. "Today, I think the wind was definitely a factor. In the first minutes of the first half, it was kind of tough to get the ball out of our end because when you put it in the air, it was coming right back at you. I thought we’d be all right after scoring three goals in the first half with the wind against us, because the wind would be with us the rest of the way."

Fotopoulos, who was named the SEC Player of the Year at Wednesday’s award banquet, opened the second half scoring at 60:20 off a breakaway. Wambach followed at 68:05 with a goal off Kerri Doran’s assist. Freshman Jill Stevens finished off the Gators’ scoring at 78:27 with a short shot off of Wambach’s assist.

The Gators out-shot the Gamecocks 25-4 on Thursday. USC appeared to score a goal off a first-half corner kick with five minutes remaining in the opening half, but had the goal called back due to a Gamecock foul. Meredith Flaherty started in goal for UF and recorded one save. She was replaced in the 69th minute by senior Lynn Pattishall, who also recorded one save. USC started Emily Crain in goal and she recorded two saves. Carrie Warner started the second half in goal for USC and registered three saves.

Florida will meet Kentucky in the SEC semifinals on Friday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. (ET). Kentucky defeated Mississippi 4-1 in Thursday’s first round.

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