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Florida Soccer's Gators Grind For Win Over Duke, Tie Vs. North Carolina

Florida soccer needed to rebound after a dispiriting 4-1 loss to Miami in Gainesville in its season opener. With a dramatic win over Duke on Sunday and a dignified tie against North Carolina on Friday, the Gators got that rebound on the road — more specifically, Tobacco Road.

Florida's 0-0 tie with No. 14 North Carolina was the first tie in series history between the two teams, and also just the second time the Gators have played the Tar Heels and escaped without a loss; Florida moved to 1-7-1 against UNC all-time with the result.

The game remained scoreless through regulation and two overtime periods: Despite North Carolina getting 11 shots and eight corner kicks to the Gators' none, the Tar Heels couldn't punch one in, hitting the iron repeatedly and being thwarted by Taylor Burke, who bounced back from a poor first game to make five saves. Senior Erika Tymrak nearly burst through for her first goal of the season late in overtime, but failed to finish on a scintillating run.

The Gators' 3-2 overtime win over Duke is, however, the story of the weekend. Florida fell behind 2-0 to the Blue Devils, the 2011 NCAA Tournament runner-up, in the first 30 minutes of play, before a goal by Jillian Graff cut the lead to 2-1 before halftime. An early own goal by Duke in the second half equalized for Florida, and Tymrak scored on a feed from Havana Solaun early in extra time to give the Gators their first victory over a ranked opponent since beating Auburn in October 2011, and arguably their biggest win since streaking through the SEC Tournament in 2010.

After all, No. 2 Duke returned every starter from that 2011 team, and had pummeled their opponents thus far in 2012, thumping its only two NCAA regular season opponents, William and Mary and Elon, by a 12-1 margin, and beating exhibition foes South Carolina and the University of Montreal by a combined 7-1. Florida also gave the Blue Devils just their third defeat in the state of North Carolina in the last two years.

It's a promising return from the pit that Florida (now 1-1-1) fell into against Miami, and 2011 All-American Tymrak getting her wheels greased with her first goal of the year can only help. Florida's next match is this coming Friday against Florida State in Tallahassee, and will be viewable on ESPN3.