ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- A free kick goal off the right foot of junior Laís Araujo sends the Florida soccer team ahead to the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal round. That goal gave the Gators a 1-0 win over Auburn Tuesday afternoon at the Orange Beach Sportsplex.
The win advances Florida to its 20th SEC Tournament semifinal appearance.
In Thursday's semifinal action, Florida faces No. 11 Texas A&M - a 7-1 winner over Missouri in today's first match of the quarterfinal round.
This was the second meeting between Florida and Auburn this month. When the two teams met in Auburn on Oct. 15, Auburn took a 1-0 win. This is the second time in the program's 23 SEC Tournament appearances that Florida opened the tournament with a win versus an opponent it lost to in regular-season play.
How the Goal Was Scored: The season's first free kick attempt for Laís Araujo scored in the 31st minute. A foul gave the Gators the 22-yard kick left of the Tigers box. The strike went in untouched to give Araujo her second goal of the season.
Florida preserved its ninth shutout of the season with a strong defensive effort. If a shot got through, junior goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese was there to make the stop, as she turned in her 20th career shutout Tuesday. In the 14th minute, Marckese made the stop on Ellie Leek's shot in the box off a clearance deflection. Marckese also registered the save on Courtney Schell's free kick from the top of the box in the 27th minute.
For the match, the Gators outshot the Tigers 12-10 and held a 5-3 advantage for shots-on-goal.
What the Gators Said: On Florida's win after three consecutive losses to Auburn: "It was great to get the monkey off our back. It was a hard-fought match. It was a great finish by Laís [Araujo] on the free kick. We weathered the storm at the end." - Florida Head Coach Becky Burleigh
What led to decision for Laís Araujo to take her first free kick of season? "We've been working on those a little bit more in practice. She's been pretty consistent in practice. Only the people who practice free kicks can take them in the games. She stepped up and stuck it." - Florida Head Coach Becky Burleigh
This was your first free kick of the season. What led to you stepping up to take this kick? "We've been practicing the free kicks a lot - coming early, staying after practice. It's something we've been working on. I finally got the shot and I was very happy it went in." - junior midfielder Laís Araujo
Florida played a three-back today. How did that go for the team? "It is something we really haven't really played a lot. It is something new, especially with Parker [Roberts] moving to the back in the last few games.
"We switched to the four-back and that felt more natural. With the three-back, I think it is something we can use as well. We just need to tone in a little bit more going forward." - Florida junior goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese