No. 10 Florida State (9-3-1, 2-3-0 ACC) lost to Clemson (8-5-0, 3-2-0 ACC) by a 1-0 score tonight at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
Clemson had a good approach to this game. Early on they decided not to challenge FSU’s possession in the midfield. Instead they opted to use moderate pressure against the Seminole defenders up top while keeping the majority of their players in the back third to frustrate the Nole attack. They executed this plan beautifully and it worked.
In the 13th minute Kristina Lynch tested the Tiger defense. Lynch drove the ball into the box and was taken down by Ellen Colborn but the referee didn’t see enough contact to award the penalty kick.
In the 20th minute Clemson earned a free kick when Natalia Kuikka ran into Mariana Speckmaier from behind. The free kick was served into the box and Miranda Weslake leaped over Kirsten Pavlisko to head the ball just inside the post to give Clemson a 1-0 lead.
In the 31st minute Deyna Castellanos sought the equalizer. Castellanos found a bit of space in the Tiger defense and after receiving a pass from Kaycie Tillman she took a touch and then drove a shot headed for the upper left corner of the goal. However, Clemson keeper Sandy MacIver was up to the task and she denied Castellanos.
In the 34th minute the Noles tried again. This time it was an effort from Anna Patten. She executed a nice one-two with Tillman and got free on the edge of the box. Patten launched a missile toward the goal but MacIver was there again to deny the Seminole defender.
In the 48th minute the Noles earned a corner. Castellanos drove the ball to the touchline and crossed it back for Lynch who was standing just outside the six yard box. Lynch took a quick left foot shot that was stopped by MacIver.
In the 51st minute Malia Berkely tracked down a ball in midfield. She drove the ball forward and cracked a rocket from about 25 yards. MacIver was up to the task again as she made perhaps her best save of the night to deny the Noles yet again. I’m not entirely sure that Berkely’s shot would have been a goal as it could have hit the woodwork but it was certainly an impressive save nonetheless. On the ensuing corner kick Castellanos took a shot from distance that just missed the left post.
In the 75th minute Yujie Zhao ripped a curling shot from about 25 feet out but MacIver was there again to keep the Seminoles from getting level. In the 88th minute Zhao let another shot rip from distance but it wasn’t on frame.
FSU couldn’t muster another goal scoring chance and Clemson got out of Tallahassee with a huge 1-0 upset.
Florida State outshot Clemson 24-5. The Noles had six shots on goal while Clemson only had one.
FSU played the game without Gloriana Villalobos (Costa Rica) and Gabby Carle (Canada) who are with their national teams preparing for World Cup Qualifying matches.
As discussed above Clemson used their forwards to apply moderate pressure at the start of the game. However, once the Tigers got the early goal they bunkered in and kept 10 or 11 players behind the ball for the rest of the game.
This strategy is risky as it allowed the Seminoles to push almost everyone forward for the final 60 minutes of the game. It also decreased the chances for Clemson to score because a bunker strategy concedes possession to the attacking team. It is an especially risky strategy to employ against FSU because the Noles have a number of players who are capable of scoring from distance. However, the virtue of the strategy is that it clogs up the middle of the field and cuts down on the space given to the attacking team. The strategy ended up working due to the thicket of bodies Clemson put in front of the goal combined with the excellent game turned in by MacIver in goal.
This is a huge win for Clemson. The Tigers were at 60th in the RPI before the game. They now have a road win over a top 5 RPI team on their resume. Before the game Clemson was headed for the NCAA bubble. Now they will have a big feather in their cap come Selection Sunday.
This is a tough loss for Florida State. The Noles suffer a rare loss at home and they also have their third ACC defeat. FSU didn’t really play that poorly in this game. They had their chances but just couldn’t convert due to facing a keeper that was in a bit of a zone.
Before the game FSU was very much in the hunt for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That quest takes a big hit after this loss. Top seeds don’t normally lose at home to teams just barely in the RPI top 60. The Noles could still capture a #1 seed but they can’t have another game like this one if they expect to get it.
Florida State will welcome Wake Forest to Tallahassee on Sunday, October 7th. The game will kick off at 1pm.