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NCAA Game of the Week: Florida upsets Tennessee, 2-1, on senior day

After a scoreless opening half, the No. 20 Florida Gators upset the No. 11 Tennessee Volunteers on the senior day in Knoxville. A pair of Gator goals scored by Sarah Troccoli and Briana Solis sandwiched a lone Vols goal by Anna Bialczak to give the visitors the win and a much-needed three points in conference play with the SEC tournament on the horizon.

For Tennessee, the result marked the second such conference upset this weekend, entering the game off a 2-1 loss to Vanderbilt on Thursday. Much the same way, Florida entered this weekend’s action after dropping back-to-back results in Week 9, the first time since 2014 that they’ve lost two in a row, but a 2-0 win over Kentucky on Thursday may have been enough of a morale boost to give the Gators the edge this afternoon.

Both teams were evenly matched for the first 45 minutes of the contest, the two defense battling to prevent either side from breaking the deadlock. Jamaican international and junior college transfer Khadijah “Bunny” Shaw, who leads the team in scoring with 13 goals, had an opportunity to put the Vols on the board in the 34th minute after being fouled within striking distance, but she sent her free kick just over the crossbar.

Moments later Florida keeper Kaylan Marckese and Tennessee junior Danielle Marcano were involved in a hard collision when Marcano went up with a high boot in attempts of chipping the ball over the keeper, who was coming in hard off her line. Despite the collision Marcano was nearly successful, but midfielder Parker Roberts came up clutch with the bicycle-goalline clearance to prevent the Vos from capitalizing on the play.

Florida finally broke the deadlock in the first 10 minutes of the second half when freshman Deanne Rose cut back inside the 18 before slotting the ball across the box for junior midfielder Sarah Troccoli, who one-touched the ball past Vols netminder Shae Yanez to get on the board. Rose nearly doubled the Gators’ lead minutes later after being on the receiving end of a perfectly-weighted through ball, but this time Yanez was able to stop Rose’s shot.

Tennessee answered with a goal of their own less than 10 minutes later, with Anna Bialczak equalizing for the home side just after the hour mark. Bialczak beat Marckese to Katie Cousin’s free kick into the area, flicking the set piece service past Marckese, who was racing off her line in attempts of collecting, and into the back of the net.

Briana Solis scored the game winner for the Gators in the 80th minute after forcing a turnover just outside of the circle and engaging in a give-and-go with Madison Alexander. Alexander played the ball back up for Solis about 20 yards away from goal, and Solis did the rest, completing the run and firing off a shot that sent Yanez sprawling, unable to make the save.

Shortly after Florida retook the lead, a pair of yellow cards were issued, first to Florida’s Julia Lester for a hard challenge on Cousins, and then on Erin Gilroy after taking down senior Gabby Seiler just outside of the box. Seiler was the worse for the wear of the two fouled players, staying down in obvious pain long after the challenge. She was assisted off the field, favoring her right leg. If she sustained a significant injury in today’s match, she will be a hard player for Florida to replace ahead of the SEC tournament, as she is tied with Rose for leading the team in points (six goals and assists for 18 points).

Up next for the Florida Gators (12-4, 6-2 SEC) is their final game of regular season conference action, a Thursday, October 26 home matchup against the SEC-leading South Carolina Gamecocks. Tennessee (13-3-1, 5-3-1, SEC) also closes out the regular season on Thursday, traveling to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks.

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