No. 5 Florida State (11-2, 5-0 ACC) defeated No. 20 Virginia Tech (9-3-1, 1-3-1 ACC) tonight in Blacksburg, VA, 3-2.
FSU had most of the possession early on but it was the home team that broke the scoring ice. In the 10th minute Bridget Patch stole the ball for Tech at midfield. She quickly got the ball to Molly Feighan who immediately turned and raced down the right flank. FSU was unable to shut her down and she fired a shot from just inside the box that flew over the out-stretched arms of Nole keeper Caroline Jeffers and into the goal. The Hokies had taken a quick 1-0 lead.
FSU came back undaunted. In the 11th minute Kirsten Pavlisko drove the ball up the middle of the field for the Seminoles. She laid it off for Deyna Castellanos who passed back to Yujie Zhao for a give and go. Castellanos got the ball back a yard outside the box. She took a couple of touches and turned and fired for goal. She sent a dipping right-footed shot that was ticketed for the lower right corner of the goal but Tech keeper Mandy McGlynn dove to her left and made an impressive save to deny Castellanos.
In the 16th minute McFarland slipped a beautiful ball through the VT defense into the path of a charging Jenna Nighswonger. Nighswonger caught up with the ball inside the box. She cut back to beat Emma Steigerwald and she was one on one with the keeper. However, Nighswonger didn’t like her angle so she took another touch before shooting and that gave Kelsey Irwin time to hustle over and block the shot.
In the 18th minute Florida State got the equalizer. Jaelin Howell received the ball in the midfield. She sent it over to Zhao on the right flank. Zhao dribbled it to the edge of the box before sending a searching ball into the box. Makala Thomas hustled into the six and managed to get a head on the ball sending it back to a waiting Castellanos. If you have been reading these recaps for the last few years you know what happened next. Castellanos let the ball bounce then one-timed a left-footed shot past McGlynn into the back of the net to tie the score at one. It was her eighth goal of the season and 44th of her career which ties her for second all-time in FSU history.
In the 33rd minute Howell released Zhao with a gorgeous ball from deep midfield. Zhao ran onto it and fired a shot from a yard outside the box but it sailed high.
In the 57th minute Florida State took the lead. Abbey Newton sent a ball down the right flank from her right back position. McFarland ran onto it. She managed to get past Irwin and she fired a cross into the six from the right end line. Makala Thomas was lurking and she beat Jaylyn Thompson to the ball knocking a right footed shot past McGlynn into the net to give FSU a 2-1 lead.
In the 58th minute the Seminoles generated another chance. Newton found Castellanos in the middle of the field. Castellanos one-timed an exquisite ball into the path of Nighswonger. Nighswonger crossed the ball into the six for Zhao. McGlynn made another quality save on Zhao’s shot. The rebound trickled past the goal just out of the reach of a charging Thomas. McGlynn went down holding her knee. After getting it taped up the Tech keeper was able to stay in the game.
In the 60th minute Malia Berkely received the ball and drove up field. She beat a couple of Hokies and fired a searching ball into the box. It bounced just outside the six and hit VT midfielder Kara Henderson in the forearm. It should have been called a handball and FSU should have had a penalty kick. Henderson didn’t stick her arm out deliberately or make herself bigger but the ball clearly hit her arm and went straight down allowing her to control it so it was definitely a missed call by the referee.
In the 61st minute Castellanos stole the ball off of a bad clearance. She was dispossessed but the ball went straight to Zhao who fired a shot from about 22 feet out. McGlynn came up with another sparkling save diving to her left to keep the game within reach.
In the 67th minute Castellanos received the ball in midfield. She sent a pass to McFarland but Kristen was wrong footed and couldn’t get the ball. However, Nighswonger ran in behind her reaching the ball. Nighswonger was being marked by Kiersten Hening but she was able to beat Hening to get a hard shot off but McGlynn was perfectly placed to catch it.
In the 78th minute the Hokies tied the game. Grace Sklopan sent a dangerous ball into the FSU box. It took a bounce and Allyson Brown beat the defense to the ball and half-volleyed it into the back of the net to tie the score at 2-2.
In the 86th minute Howell had the ball tackled away from her by Irwin. On the deflection Thomas and Jordan Hemmen partially collided as they went for the ball. Hemmen was able to knock it out but Thomas was injured on the play. After a VAR review the referee showed Hemmen red and sent her off. Initially it looked as if there wasn’t enough contact for such an extreme penalty as it seemed like both players were going for a 50-50 ball. However, on further review is became clear that the red card was not for the initial challenge. Instead the penalty was for “violent conduct” that came after the two players got tangled up. Hennen delivered a back kick with her studs (it looked deliberate) that hit Thomas on the inner thigh. The referee got this decision 100% correct. That kick was definitely worthy of a red card. After Hemmen’s ejection the Hokies were forced to play the rest of the game with only 10 players.
On the ensuing free kick Castellanos drove a curving ball past the wall that took a bounce right before the goal but was saved spectacularly by McGlynn diving to her left. Nighswonger took the ensuing corner. Jenna lifted a left-footed cross into the six that Howell did well to get a head on. However, Sklopan was there guarding the post and she did a great job heading the ball off the line and preserving the tie.
In the 90th minute Jaelin Howell received the ball on the right flank. She beat Lilly Weber and drove into the box. Weber came from behind and took Howell down in the box but no foul was called and FSU was denied a penalty kick.
In the 91st minute Zhao chipped a ball for Leilanni Nesbeth but Irwin was called for obstruction giving FSU a free kick. Castellanos took the kick from about 22 yards out but the ball deflected off the wall over the goal.
In the 116th minute Malia Berkely received a pass from Jaelin Howell. Berkely dribbled into VT’s defensive third. She found Jenna Nighswonger on the right flank. Nighswonger drove into the box and delivered a left-footed cross. Kristen McFarland blocked it over to Berkely who was charging from the right side. Berkely fired a ball that was deflected at the top of the six by Tech defender Kelsey Irwin. Unfortunately for the Hokies the ball dropped right in the path of Leilanni Nesbith who jumped on the ball one-timing it with her left foot into the back of the net to give the Seminoles a dramatic 3-2 victory.
FSU is now 18-0-2 against Virginia Tech all-time. The Noles have outscored the Hokies 34-7 in that period.
While Deyna Castellanos (Venezuela) returned from national team duty and played against Virginia Tech, Gabby Carle (Canada) and Heather Payne (Ireland) missed their second straight game. Both Carle and Payne should be ready to go against Virginia on Sunday.
This team never gets rattled and they know how to win. This was an impressive win. The Noles were missing half of their starting back line and still managed to get a top-20 road win. FSU also jumped into first place in the ACC over North Carolina (the only two undefeated teams) with the win.
Having said that, Florida State must find a way to clamp down defensively. They are conceding too many goals. FSU has now conceded 15 goals in 12 games (1.25 gaa). For context the Noles only conceded 13 goals for the season last year in 27 games. I know that half of the back line was missing in this game but this has been a year long problem. For now the offense is so potent that the team is still able to win games. However, that magic may not last especially later in the NCAA tournament when the Seminoles will be facing other elite teams.
Florida State has things to work on but this team is still winning games even while not at full strength. Going 11-2 against the third toughest strength of schedule in the nation is nothing to sneeze at. The Noles are still on track to capture a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and we all know how well a Mark Krikorian team can finish.
Florida State will welcome the top-ranked team in the nation to the Seminole Soccer Complex when the (1) Virginia Cavaliers (10-0-3, 2-0-3 ACC) visit Tallahassee on Sunday. The game will kick off at 1pm and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.