(7) Florida State (15-4-2, 8-4-1 ACC) defeated (3) North Carolina (17-3-1, 12-1 ACC) by a 3-2 score to win the 2018 ACC tournament today in Cary, NC.
Don’t let Florida State’s seventh seed fool you. This was a game between the two best teams in the ACC. This is also a game between the two best programs in the ACC. The ACC women’s soccer tournament has been contested a total of 31 times including today. UNC or FSU has won the championship 27 of those times and every year since 2012. At least one of these teams has been in the final in 29 of those years.
Florida State is on a roll defeating two top 10 teams (Duke & Virginia) to reach the final in impressive fashion. North Carolina is on a massive roll. The Tar Heels are the defending ACC tournament champions (defeating FSU 2-1 last year) and they haven’t lost an ACC game (regular season or tournament) since losing to Notre Dame 1-0 on October 14, 2016.
This game is a rematch of the September 14th game in Tallahassee when UNC defeated FSU 1-0.
This game is a matchup of differing styles. UNC likes to employ high pressure to wear their opponents down and capitalize on mistakes. The Noles like to use a possession style of soccer to create offensive opportunities and goals through creative buildup and clinical finishes.
The Tar Heels started the game on their front foot. UNC used their high pressure strategy and the Seminoles initially struggled to handle it. In the sixth minute the Heels earned a corner. Lotte Wubben-Moy took the corner for Carolina. She served a nice ball into the box. Morgan Goff ran up to get a clean header on the ball but FSU keeper Brooke Bollinger was there to snag it out of the air.
In the 21st minute FSU generated a nice chance. Deyna Castellanos got the ball over to Yujie Zhao in the center of the midfield. Zhao had space and she dribbled the ball at the UNC defense. She passed the ball to Kaycie Tillman inside the box on the right flank. Tillman crossed it back for Zhao but UNC keeper Samantha Leshnak was there to intercept the ball.
In the 22nd minute Jaelin Howell delivered the ball to Zhao in the midfield. Zhao took it up the field and got it to Castellanos who was open in the middle of the field. Castellanos took a couple of dribbles and fired a shot from about 25 feet that seemed to be on target. However, it took a slight deflection from UNC defender Lotte Wubben-Moy and it careened just over the crossbar for a corner kick.
In the 23rd minute Kirsten Pavlisko stole the ball. She raced up the field and found Tillman who laid it off for Zhao. Zhao delivered a dangerous ball for Castellanos on the right side of the box. Castellanos fired a shot but it was deflected by UNC defender Brooke Bingham into the side netting.
In the 27th minute Castellanos struck again. Tillman found Gloriana Villalobos in the midfield. Villalobos delivered a nice ball to Kristina Lynch in the box. Lynch crossed the ball into the six yard box but it was blocked. However Castellanos was there to collect it and she one-timed a shot toward goal that was blocked by the Carolina defense.
In the 32nd minute Carolina had a golden opportunity. Ru Mucherera collected the ball on the right flank. She dribbled the ball into the 18 yard box. She laid the ball off but it was deflected by a diving Jaelin Howell. The ball ricocheted in the box and a diving Rachel Jones got her foot on it getting there just before Gabby Carle. The ball went to the foot of Rachael Dorwart who put a move on Malia Berkely and tried to get a shot off but she couldn’t get it on frame and the ball went wide.
In the 36th minute FSU broke the scoring ice. Villalobos laid the ball off for Howell in the midfield. Howell slipped a beautiful ball to Dallas Dorosy who used her speed to get behind the UNC defense. It was a perfectly timed run by Dorosy. Dorosy then delivered a clinical finish slotting the ball into the left corner of the goal to give the Seminoles a 1-0 lead. This was the first goal given up by UNC since October 7th when the Heels beat Syracuse 7-1. It was the first goal given up by Leshnak since August 22nd against Texas.
In the 39th minute FSU earned a corner. Megan Connolly took it and delivered a very nice ball into the box. Anna Patten was there to get a head on it but her shot went wide.
In the 41st minute Dorosy struck again. Berkely came up from her defensive position to get the ball to Villalobos in the middle of the field. She turned a laid the ball off for Patten who passed it to Megan Connolly on the right flank. Connolly crossed the ball into the six and it found the foot of Carolina defender Julia Ashley. Ashley couldn’t control it and the ball bounced back toward the goal. Leshnak and Wubben-Moy went to the ground to block it but the ball dribbled right to Dorosy who was there to knock the ball in with her left foot to give the Noles a 2-0 lead.
In the 51st minute Dorian Bailey retreived the ball on the left flank. She drove the ball down the flank and crossed a beautiful ball through the FSU defense that went right to Brianna Pinto in the middle of the 18 yard box. Pinto took a shot that went wide. It appeared to deflect off of Kirsten Pavlisko but the referee awarded a goal kick to FSU.
The game changed in the 62nd minute. Morgan Goff found Madison Schultz on the right flank. Schultz drove the ball down the flank and lifted a cross that was deflected by Gabby Carle. The ball was headed directly for the upper 90 of the goal but Brooke Bollinger was there and she made an athletic grab for the save to keep her clean sheet. Unfortunately Bollinger was injured on the play and had to leave the game. Bollinger was able to walk off under her own power but she seemed to be favoring her left shoulder. She wouldn’t return. Redshirt junior Caroline Jeffers came in to replace Bollinger.
Carolina didn’t take long to take advantage of Bollinger’s absence. In the 63rd minute Jeffers partially shanked a punt that went straight to Jones. Jones had the ball knocked away from her by Carle. Carle tracked the ball down in the corner and passed it back to Jeffers. Jeffers attempted to clear it and her clearance was blocked by Alex Kimball. The ball took a bad bounce (for FSU) and it headed for the goal. Jeffers raced back to try to keep it out of the goal but she couldn’t get there fast enough. Kimball followed her and end up falling on Jeffers. Kimball also appeared to hit the ball with her arm. The referee stopped the game briefly for a review to determine whether Kimball hit the ball with her arm before the ball crossed the goal line but he determined that the goal should count so UNC had cut the FSU lead in half at 2-1.
In the 68th minute Howell lost the ball to Dorwart. In the process of trying to win it back Howell grabbed Dorwart’s jersey and then knocked her to the ground from behind. The referee awarded a free kick to UNC and a yellow card to Howell. On the ensuing free kick Annie Kingman sent the ball into the box. The ball was headed by Julia Ashley but Jeffers was there for the save.
UNC tied the game in the 72nd minute. The Heels were awarded a free kick from a few yards over midfield. Wubben-Moy stepped up to take it. She delivered a nice ball that was headed twice and eventually rolled outside of the box. Rachel Jones beat Dallas Dorosy to the ball. Jones drove the ball down the left flank eventually delivering a beautiful cross into the box. Mucherera elevated over Kirsten Pavlisko to get her head on the ball to direct it into the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2.
FSU tried to strike back immediately. Jujie Zhao received a pass in the midfield from Dorosy. Zhao used her space to drive the ball to about 20 yards out. She then delivered a shot that hit the back of the crossbar before going out of bounds.
In the 84th minute Florida State struck back for good. Tillman retrieved the ball and drove it just inside the box. She laid it off for Dorosy who was on the right flank. Dorosy drove the ball to the end line and crossed it into the box. Kristina Lynch made a great run to meet the ball and she one-timed it past Leshnak into the back of the net for the game winning goal.
In the 87th minute UNC tried to equalize with a corner kick. Wubben-Moy took the corner driving it into the box. The ball went right to Julia Ashley who got a nice strong header on it but Jeffers was there to catch the ball and preserve the huge victory for Florida State.
Both teams were credited with 10 shots but FSU had five on goal while UNC had four.
FSU (7th seed) is the lowest seed to ever win the ACC championship.
This loss snaps UNC’s 12 game winning streak.
FSU handled the quick Friday to Sunday turnaround very well. The Noles have perhaps the best bench in the nation and it showed today.
This was only the 25th time in UNC soccer history (955 games) that the Heels had trailed by two or more goals in a game.
Dallas Dorosy was obviously huge. She had the first two goals and assisted on Lynch’s third goal. For that performance Dorosy was awarded the ACC Tournament MVP trophy. The other Noles on the all-tournament team were Denya Castellanos, Jaelin Howell, Natalia Kuikka, and Kristen McFarland.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will release the NCAA Tournament bracket on Monday afternoon. The big question regarding Florida State will be whether the Seminoles will get a #1 seed. I am on record stating that the #1 seed was lost when the Noles finished the season by losing to Miami. However, with this dominating performance in the ACC tournament I am backing off that prediction.
The question will be whether the committee puts more emphasis on team quality or the overall body of work. If the emphasis is on team quality then the Noles will definitely be a #1 seed. They absolutely look like one of the top four teams in the nation. They were ranked sixth in the RPI before the ACC Tournament and since then they have beaten Duke (#11 RPI) and UNC (#2 RPI) on their home fields and beat Virginia (#12 RPI) on a neutral field. FSU will very likely be in the top 4 of the next RPI ranking.
If the emphasis is on body of work the Seminoles could be looking at a #2 seed. FSU has a great collection of wins. They have beaten the following teams, latest RPI ranking in parentheses: Vanderbilt (15), Wisconsin (36), UCLA (13), Duke (11), Virginia (12) and North Carolina (2). However, the Noles also have losses to Clemson (46) at home and Miami (126).
My guess is that Stanford (a lock) and Georgetown will likely get #1 seeds. The other two #1 seeds will be either FSU, North Carolina, USC, Santa Clara or Tennessee. If the committee is comfortable with two #1 seeds coming from one conference then FSU and UNC have a great shot. We will find out on Monday.
The first round of the NCAA tournament will start on November 9th. The bracket will be released on Monday but the Seminoles are assured of playing the first two rounds (at least) in Tallahassee.
Either way the Seminoles are absolutely rolling right now. If they can keep up this level of play a trip to the College Cup could be in their immediate future.