ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -Jennifer Miller got the Rebels on the board in the first half, but a pair of early goals proved to be too much to overcome as No. 22 Ole Miss (15-5-2) fell to No. 5 Florida (17-3-1) by a score of 2-1 in the SEC Tournament semifinals Friday.
For the third time in only five losses on the season for the Rebels, a penalty kick provided the deciding goal in a match, with the Gators converting what proved to be the game-winner in the 18th minute following a foul called on a challenge at the top of the box.
With the loss, the Rebels will now return home and await the announcement of the NCAA Tournament on Monday. Ole Miss, which also bid to host an opening-round game, will also find out if the Rebels will play at home in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
"It was a tough match and Florida is a very good team," said Ole Miss head coach Matthew Mott. "We fought hard and our intensity level was there. We just couldn't come back after two good goals by them early. Climbing out of that hole is tough against them. We had some chances and created some good opportunities but couldn't convert on that second goal once we got the good goal from Jennifer Miller.
"We should have out spot in the NCAA Tournament secured after tonight and it will be exciting to have the chance to continue our season," Mott said. "Hopefully we'll get the chance to start the journey at home."
Florida got on the board first, putting the ball in the net in the 11th minute when Savannah Jordan took the pass from Havana Solaun in the box from the far side and put it past the Rebel keeper to give the Gators the early 1-0 advantage.
The lead grew to 2-0 when the Gators converted on a penalty kick in the 19th minute. Florida took the ball at the top of the box when a Rebel defender stepped in to poke the ball away and tripped up the Gator player. The foul was called and Solaun stepped up to take the kick before converting successfully.
Ole Miss answered with a goal in the 30th minute when Olivia Harrison and Addie Forbus found Jennifer Miller at the top of the far side of the box. Olivia Harrison sent the ball ahead to Forbus, who tapped the ball up to Miller at the far corner of the box. Miller then fired the shot in over the keeper to the near side to get the Rebels on the board and cut the lead to 2-1.
That margin would hold at the half as the Gators fouled the Rebels with less than 10 seconds to play in the half just outside the top of the box, preventing Ole Miss from getting set up for a good free kick at the goal.
The two teams battled throughout the second half with the defense stepping up for both sides. The Rebels thwarted nine scoring attempts from the Gators, while Florida turned away four Ole Miss shots in the half.
Ole Miss got its best chance with a minute to go in regulation, setting up for a free kick just outside the top of the box on the near side following a Florida foul. The Gators cleared the serve into the box to foil the Rebels' final push at a tying goal and claim the win.
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