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Soccer Comes Up Short against Florida

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – In the final match of the 2020-21 soccer season, the University of Miami battled until the very end, but fell to Florida, 2-0, Saturday afternoon at Cobb Stadium.

In a match featuring five yellow cards, the Hurricanes played with only 10 student-athletes over the final 23:23 following a red card handed out by the head official.

Stepping in for the short-handed Canes, women’s basketball forward Naomi Mbandu experienced her first competitive soccer match and notched a pair of saves on the day.

“I think we created a number of chances that were inches from being different outcomes,” Miami head coach Sarah Barnes said. “Obviously, not having our starting goalkeepers today definitely was impactful.

But credit to Naomi and everything she did today, we can’t thank her enough. Playing a sport that isn’t hers and doing the very best she can; she was awesome today.

“Overall, I thought we did a good job of turning them over and probably had more chances today against Florida than we had in our previous matches,” Barnes continued. “I think there is a lot to be positive about and I certainly feel good about the future.”

The Gators, coached Saturday for the final time by 26-year head coach Becky Burleigh who announced in January she would be retiring at season’s end, opened the scoring in the fifth minute off the left foot of Beata Olsson.

After forcing a turnover in the box, Olsson rebounded her first shot that ricocheted off the post to give the Gators the early 1-0 advantage.

Looking to even the match, freshman forward Michaela Baker sent a shot on target in the 21st minute, however Susi Espinoza was able to make the stop.

13 minutes later, redshirt freshman midfielder Jackie Koerwitz placed a shot on net, but again Espinoza was up for the challenge.

With less than a minute remaining in the first half Mbandu registered her first career save, punching a blast by Sydney Urban out of harm’s way. On the ensuing corner, the France native went up high for a rebound, to prevent a second goal-scoring opportunity by the Gators.

At the break, the Gators and Hurricanes both registered a quartet of shots, with Miami leading 3-2 in shots on goal.

In the 53rd minute, Mbandu made her second save of the afternoon off a low sailing shot by Olsson.

Seven minutes later, sophomore forward Jaclyn Marra nearly evened the playing field when a cross from Baker sent toward her thigh missed just high of the crossbar.

Following a second yellow card handed out to junior captain Selena Fortich at the 66:37 mark, Miami played with just 10 student-athletes the remainder of the contest.

Then, in the 81st minute, Samantha Tobar snuck a shot past Mbandu, as the Gators took a 2-0 lead they would not look back on.

Overall, the Hurricanes cap the 2020-21 campaign with a 1-11-1 (0-8-0 ACC) overall record, and a 1-2-1 record in the spring.

In the spring, only two upperclassmen, Fortich and junior midfielder Johanna Barth, stepped foot on the pitch, with underclassmen accounting for 4,004 minutes out of a possible 4,180 (95.8 percent).

“We have so many freshmen and sophomores playing that every single game is an awesome opportunity for them to learn and grow,” Barnes said. “There is a big difference of playing in high school compared to college, especially in the ACC. So again, the quality experience is one more step forward for them. They are going to be much more prepared next year, just by virtue of having the game experience. And they also learned and made tweaks along the way, so yeah, it has been a great opportunity.

“Overall, I am proud of the effort and the growth,” Barnes added. “I am very excited for the future.”