The fifth-seed Florida Gators eliminated fourth-seed Texas A&M from the SEC tournament with a 2-1 victory on Tuesday.
A&M was the preseason coaches’ prediction to win the SEC. However, the loss marks another disappointing end to the Aggies’ season, as they crash out of the tournament in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row.
Exactly one month since their regular season meeting, A&M had an opportunity to avenge its 3-1 loss to Florida.
Following a first half marred by narrowly missed chances, the Gators opened the scoring just minutes before halftime by capitalizing on a corner. Junior midfielder Parker Roberts managed to get her boot on the ball as it fell to the ground and watch it bounce past the A&M goalkeeper.
Florida extended its lead in the 63rd minute with senior Sammie Betters' pass from the midfield setting up forward Vanessa Kara with a scoring opportunity. Kara booted a low shot towards the near post that bounced off A&M goalkeeper Shantell Hutton's leg and into the goal.
"I felt like I could have had a couple more we could have finished, [we had] a couple of good opportunities," Kara told the SEC Network. "And we got the lucky bounce there [on the second goal]. That’s the way it goes when you are creating good chances as a team."
Although a late score by senior forward Ally Watt on a freekick gave the Aggies a chance to rally, that was all A&M could manage.
Florida succeeded in limiting A&M's high-powered offense to just 11 shots and three on target, compared to the Aggies’ SEC-leading average of 19.3 shots per game. As the Gators tallied 12 shots, it was the first SEC match this season in which A&M allowed more shots by the opponent than they had. The Aggies split the two non-conference matches they were out-shot in.
With a convincing win over A&M, Florida now look to ride their momentum into the next round. Florida's leading goal scorer Kara said the Aggies had a similar style of play to the Gators, which gave Florida an advantage.
"We really think we play better when the teams [opponents] are high press because it is just easier for passes to come and we're a more possession oriented team,” Kara said. “We were just really excited to get this matchup. We know they [A&M] are a great team but we just thought this would be a good game to get our momentum going again."
Florida will face regular-season SEC champion Arkansas in the tournament semifinals.