ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- Florida's Savannah Jordan and Pamela Begić helped the Gators to a 2-1 win after a two point deficit to advance to SEC Soccer Tournament semifinals over No. 8 Vanderbilt (9-8-4) on Wednesday.
Simone Charley scored her seventh goal of the season in the ninth minute of Match 5 of the SEC Soccer Tournament to give the Commodores early hope in upsetting the SEC regular-season champions. Florida (15-3-1) answered 16 minutes later as Savannah Jordan made a goal with asssists by Meggie Dougherty Howard and Gaby Rivera. The goal was Jordan's 20th goal of the 2015 season.
The Gators took the lead for the first time in the match in the 76th minute with a goal by Pamela Begić and assist by Christen Westphal.
"We were aware of the threat of the counter [from Vanderbilt] but thought our defenders did a really good job to make sure that wasn't a factor," said Florida head coach Becky Burleigh. "But mostly it was the patience of keeping the ball and sticking to what we do despite the fact that that Vanderbilt was giving a tremendous defensive effort.
"Those two [Savannah Jordan and Meggie Dougherty Howard] have connected really well this season so it was exciting to see a goal there. Also great to see Pam [Begič] score off again another great service from Christen [Westphal]."
Under first-year coach Darren Ambrose, VU recorded its most wins and first winning season since 2009. A 2-1 victory over Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Monday was the program's first tournament victory since 2005. The team also allowed its fewest goals (23) since 2006. Vanderbilt's regular season concludes as it returns to Nashville after its first SEC Tournament berth in five years.
"We took the field and there wasn't one of us that didn't feel that we could win the game," Ambrose said. "There is that kind of belief and that kind of pride in our program now that is catching on. I couldn't have asked for more from those kids tonight. I thought we fought tooth and nail. Florida obviously is one of the best teams in the country. We knew we were going to have to defend. We knew we were going to have to counter attack. I thought overall we did exactly what we were supposed to do. We gave up two goals. One was a deflection that was cruel and the other one was a corner. Over time they wore us down.
Florida received its regular-season championship trophy pregame. The trophy was accepted by Gator seniors Claire Falknor, Lauren Smith and Westphal.
Florida advances to play the winner of No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 5 South Carolina in Semifinals on Friday, Nov. 6 at 3:30 p.m. CT.