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Florida raises the SEC Tournament trophy after a 2-1 2OT win over Tennessee.

Sunday November 7, 2004UF Wins SEC Soccer Tournament off Hoyles' Golden Goal

AUBURN, Ala. -

Florida raises the SEC Tournament trophy after a 2-1 2OT win over Tennessee.

She’s been in this position before and again she delivered as the seconds ticked off in the second overtime period. Senior Monica Hoyles hit the golden goal with only a minute and seven seconds remaining before penalty kicks to give No. 16 Florida (16-3-3, 7-2-2 SEC) a 2-1 2OT win over No. 8 Tennessee (15-4-2, 10-1 SEC) in the Southeastern Conference Soccer Tournament championship match held Sunday in front of an Auburn Soccer Complex crowd of 425.

The win is the seventh SEC Tournament title in the 10-year history of Gator soccer and breaks a two-year hold of the tournament trophy by the Lady Vols. UT defeated UF 2-1 2OT in the 2002 final and the two teams tied 1-1 in 2003, but UT claimed the trophy after taking a 7-6 advantage in penalty kicks. The match was the sixth overtime contest between the two teams in the last eight meetings.

Back when she was a freshman in 2001, it was Hoyles that hit the golden goal with less than a minute remaining in the second overtime period to give UF a 1-0 win at No. 3 UCLA to send Florida to the NCAA College Cup. Hoyles also hit the golden goal in a 2002 overtime win over Georgia.

Hoyles, who usually logs her minutes on the Gator backline, was pushed up to the Florida frontline in the second half. Cherry Pickman sent the through ball into the box, where Hoyles took a one-touch shot to the near post. For Pickman, it was her second assist on a golden goal this season, as she assisted on KeLeigh Hudson’s overtime goal at South Carolina in the regular season finale.

"Initially when I went up there it was just to hustle, to give someone the opportunity to get open or look for a rebound.            But when the ball came to me, I just thought ‘Corner’!," Hoyles said. "We needed something to be a spark and they let me be the spark. I’m glad that I got another goal. I haven’t scored in two years so I was glad to end the drought."

Florida scored first early in the second half. Melanie Booth served up the free kick from about 35 yards to the far post. Two Gators looked to have a play on the ball, but it was Christine Johnson, making her first start since Oct. 17, who headed the ball for a one-hopper into the near post corner of the goal at 55:37. It was Johnson’s fifth goal of the season and first since Sept. 12 at Missouri. That match was the last Johnson played before sitting out the next six with a right knee injury. She returned to the UF lineup the weekend of Oct. 8 and 10, but a flare up of the knee caused her to sit out the remainder of the regular season.

"It was very exciting (to hit the goal)," Johnson said. "I’ve been trying to get back into the rhythm of things since my injury and it was exciting to hit that goal. This is such an emotional game. I felt like it set the tempo."

But the Lady Vols knotted the score at 72:07 when UT was awarded a free kick deep in the Gator defensive third. Emily Redberg headed in the Kayla Lockaby free kick to the far post. The assistant referee raised the offsides flag, but the referee waved off the flag.

UF goalkeeper Jen Gardner came up big in the first overtime period, making three key saves. In the third minute, Lockaby’s header was averted when Gardner made diving save. Keeley Dowling’s header off the UT corner kick in the sixth minute was saved by Garder as well as Dowling’s shot off a free kick a minute later.

UF Head Coach Becky Burleigh was pleased how her team responded after being outshot 7-0 in the first overtime period.

"It was a exciting win. Plenty of drama played into this win – the sudden death, the fact that we haven’t won this title in the last two years and that Monica, who is not usually a forward, scored the winning goal. We wanted someone who knew what it was like to fight through, someone that could be a spark for us and Monica’s athleticism is always dangerous. She’s scored some big goals for us in the past and so we thought we’d try it," Burleigh said. "It was actually Vic’s (Campell – UF Associate Head Coach) idea and it turned out to be a golden idea.

"In the first overtime period, we were outplayed," she continued. "We challenged the team in the second overtime to dig deep and play with a little more pride and they responded."

Florida placed two on the SEC All-Tournament team. Stephanie Freeman, the 2003 & ’04 SEC Player of the Year, picked up the SEC Tournament MVP award. She was joined on the all-tournament by Booth.

Next up, the Gator soccer team will await the announcement of the 64-team NCAA Soccer bracket on Monday, Nov. 8 at 4:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPNews. Teams need to have a record of .500 or better to be eligible for a NCAA at-large berth. The first and second rounds of NCAA play are set for Nov. 12 & 14.

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