Florida heads to Championship match
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- Florida (16-3-1) earned its way to the SEC title game with a 2-0 shutout over No. 4 seed Auburn (14-5-1) on Friday after two early goals by UF.
Senior Christen Westphal took the lead for the top-seeded Gators in the 11th minute. Eight minutes later, All-SEC forward Savannah Jordan brought the Florida lead to two with assists by Betsy Middleton and Westphal. Jordan's goal was her 62nd of her career and leaves her in fourth place all-time scoring at Florida.
Auburn fought back, but couldn't find a goal to challenge the Gators. The final 71 minutes of play remained scoreless on both sides.
"I thought in the first half we did a really good job of keeping the ball and capitalizing on our opportunities," said Florida head coach Becky Burleigh. "In the second half, Auburn put some pressure on us and that combined with a bit of fatigue, we sort of lost our way in terms of passing. It was a really good effort by our team. Probably not one of our prettiest but definitely a great result."
It was seemingly a tale of two halves between the Tigers and Gators. Florida controlled the possession game in the first 45 minutes, outshooting Auburn 6-3, but when the Tigers came out in the second half, it was Auburn that went on the offensive.
"That was a tough lead to have," said SEC Defensive Player of the Year Westphal. "Auburn had just come back from a 2-0 deficit to South Carolina on Wednesday to tie the match and send it to PKs. We knew we weren't comfortable with that lead. We were pushing for a third goal but the second half just became really hectic. We stuck it out so that was good."
Seven shots were put up by the Tigers in the second half, compared to Florida's one. Juniors Brooke and Casie Ramsier were doing everything they could to try and create something through the midfield, but each time Florida's back line was able to clear the ball or force a wayward Auburn shot.
"We have a relatively young team, but now they have some tournament experience," Auburn head coach Karen Hoppa said. "We're going to learn a lot from this week and carry that into the NCAA Tournament."
No. 1 Florida advances to the SEC Soccer Tournament Championship match for the first time since 2013 and the program's 16th appearance all time. Auburn's 14 wins in 2015 stands as the second-most wins in a single-season in program history and will await to see where it lands in the NCAA Tournament field.
Florida will face Texas A&M in the SEC Soccer Championship match at 1:00 p.m. CT on ESPNU.