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Florida and Arkansas upset competition to advance to SEC final

The Florida Gators celebrate their 1-0 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks. (photo courtesy of Eric Glemser and University of Florida)

The Florida Gators celebrate their 1-0 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks. (photo courtesy of Eric Glemser and University of Florida)

It was a night of upsets in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) tournament, as the no. 1 and no. 2 seeds were eliminated in two top-2o match-ups. Here’s what went down in the SEC tournament semifinal round:

South Carolina suffers first loss of season, Florida returns to SEC final

In one of the biggest upsets in college soccer, #15 Florida defeated #2 South Carolina in the first of two Southeastern Conference (SEC) semifinal matches Friday night. The loss, South Carolina’s first of the season, eliminated the team from SEC tournament play.

The game-winning goal was scored less than 20 minutes in when Florida’s Mayra Paleyo received the ball along the right flank, moved inside the box and fired off a shot. Paleyo’s shot hit the crossbar and bounced back out into the field of play, where Savannah Jordan headed it for another attempt on goal. South Carolina defender Paige Bendell tried to head the ball out of danger, but she was unable to stop Jordan from scoring. The goal put the Gators up 1-0, and the Gamecocks found themselves down a goal for only the third time this season.

From then on out, it was a tough, physical battle as South Carolina fought hard to equalize. It looked as they had been successful moments after Jordan’s goal, but the goal was erased after Savannah McCaskill fouled Gators goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese before the goal was scored. McCaskill nearly redeemed herself on later in the game on a set piece, but her free kick hit the crossbar and South Carolina was once again denied.

As the clock wound down in the second half, the tempo and physicality increased. With just over 22 minutes left in the match, Florida’s Kristen Cardano and South Carolina’s Claire Studebaker got tangled up vying for the ball, and Studabaker took Cardano down to the ground. A small scuffle took place as Cardano hit Studabaker in the face and their teammates stepped in to break it up. Both Studabaker and Cardano were given yellow cards as a result, and play resumed shortly thereafter.

Both teams had a number of solid looks on goal from then on out, but both goalkeepers came up big to prevent any additional goals in the match. At the end of regulation, Jordan’s goal was the lone goal of the match, and the Gators advanced to the SEC tournament final.

Florida will play either Auburn or Arkansas on Sunday in the SEC tournament final.

Arkansas, fouls get the best of Auburn

In the second upset of the night, the #11 Auburn Tigers fell 3-1 to the #19 Arkansas Razorbacks. For the second year in a row, Auburn was eliminated in the semifinal round of the SEC tournament.

Arkansas took an early 1-0 lead just five minutes in after Lindsey Mayo headed the ball on goal, but the shot hit the crossbar and was deflected. As Auburn goalkeeper Sarah Le Beau got her fingertips on the deflection, she was knocked down by a pair of Razorbacks competing for the ball. The ball fell to Mayo’s feet, who buried it in the back of the net. The goal was the only one scored in the first half.

The Tigers, who had only been trailing at the half four previous times this season, came out eager for a goal in the second half. It wouldn’t take long for them to find it, as Casie Ramsier tied the game up in less than a minute. Ramsier received the ball from Bri Folds, moved to get a better look on goal and blasted a rocket past Arkansas goalkeeper Cameron Carter for the equalizer. The goal was Ramsier’s fourth of the tournament and 11th for the season.

The game took a turn for the worst for Auburn minutes after Avery Batson subbed in for Samantha Solaru. Batson had the ball get away from her as she made a tackle, taking down an Arkansas defender in the process. Batson, who was playing on a yellow card after a foul in the first half, was shown a second yellow and a subsequent red card, resulting in her ejection from the game. Auburn had to play with only 10 players for the remainder of the game, which proved to be their downfall against a hard-pressing Razorback side.

Playing with the advantage, Arkansas soon retook the lead after Katie Moore was fouled in the box to give Arkansas a penalty kick. Kayla McKeon stepped up to the spot for the Razorbacks and shot left while Le Beau went right, and the Razorbacks went up 2-1. With just under seven minutes left in the match, Katie Moore scored the insurance goal to put Arkansas up 3-1 and to seal their semifinal win. With the win, Arkansas advances to the SEC semifinal for the first time since 1996 and only the third time in program history.

Arkansas, who has never won an SEC tournament title, will play the reigning SEC tournament champs, Florida on Sunday, November 6 at 3 p.m. CST. The game will be aired on the SEC Network and streamed on Watch ESPN.


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