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Stephanie Freeman (left) and Jamie Garside each turned in a goal in UF's 2-0 win over Alabama.

Thursday November 4, 2004No. 16 UF Soccer Opens SEC Tournament w/2-0 Win Over Alabama

AUBURN, Ala. -

Stephanie Freeman (left) and Jamie Garside each turned in a goal in UF's 2-0 win over Alabama.

A goal in each half gave the No. 16 University of Florida soccer team (14-3-3, 7-2-2 SEC) a 2-0 win over Alabama (11-11, 5-6 SEC) in the opening round of Southeastern Conference Tournament play Thursday at the Auburn University Soccer Complex. The Gators now advance to Friday’s semifinal round, where they will meet Mississippi (9-9-2, 4-5-2 SEC). No. 7 seed Mississippi upset No. 2 seed and tournament host Auburn (14-3-2, 7-0-2 SEC) 3-0 in the tournament’s first match.

Florida got on the board at 18:53 to take a 1-0 lead. Stephanie Freeman, who picked up her second consecutive SEC Player of the Year award at last night’s tournament awards banquet, brought the ball down the middle of the field. She sent a through ball to Cherry Pickman in the middle of the box, who took a shot that was deflected by UA goalkeeper Laura Lowman. But Freeman had followed the ball into the box and was able to put in the deflection for her 15th goal of the season.

For Freeman, practice drills paid off when it came to Thursday’s match.

"I had a quick break on transition. They lost the ball in the middle and it popped right back out to me. In practice this week, we had worked on taking the ball and dribbling it at them so it kind of worked out as I was able to dribble up the middle. Cherry was open in the middle of the goal.

She took a shot that was deflected right to me in the middle of the goal and I just had to place it in the goal."

The Gators got their second goal at 78:30 when Jamie Garside came running from the far side of the box to score on an Ashley Kellgren corner kick. The goal was the second of the season for Garside, who scored her first collegiate goal also on a corner kick Oct. 3 versus Georgia.

"It was a great ball by Ashley. It crossed and Freeman let it go through. I just hit it off my thigh (into the goal)," Garside said.

UF Head Coach Becky Burleigh said Thursday’s match was pleased with Thursday’s result.

"The match was pretty much what we expected," Burleigh said. "We knew Alabama was going to fight hard. We knew they were going to be really direct and that is not an easy style to play against. We are certainly happy to come out with a shut-out win and move on. We knew their direct style of play was going to be very dangerous. They play with three forwards, who are all pretty mobile. It was key for us to keep the play in front of us. I think our defenders did a good job of that. Because it was so direct, a lot of balls needed to be won in the midfield and I think we did a better job today of winning first and second balls. I thought we had some good, quality chances to score, probably because they were pressing so hard. We were able to put away two of them and probably could have had a couple more that we didn’t put away. Overall, Alabama fought hard for 90 minutes. We knew they would."

The No. 3 seed Gators will meet Mississippi at 6 p.m. (ET) in Friday’s semifinal round. When the two teams met in the regular season, the match resulted in a 0-0 2OT tie. Friday’s match can be heard live on the official website of the Florida Gators,

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