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No. 6 Florida State soccer edges Pitt to secure 8th straight win

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The Seminoles get the win despite missing three starters.

Courtesy of FSU soccer

(6) Florida State (10-2, 4-0 ACC, #1 RPI) defeated Pitt (3-6-3, 0-2-2 ACC, #197 RPI) by a 1-0 score today at the Seminole Soccer Complex.

Game Recap

Florida State got off to a hot start. In the second minute Kristen McFarland stole a Pitt throw-in. She left the ball for Makala Thomas who immediately slipped a nice ball through to Jenna Nighswonger. Nighswonger took a couple of dribbles in the box before being dispossessed. Fortunately for FSU the ball went to Kristina Lynch who took a couple of touches just outside the box. As she was driving the ball into the box Lynch was taken down by Pitt defender Aideen O’Donoghue. It was a clear foul but the question was whether the foul occurred inside the box. On replay it looked like the foul came just outside the edge of the box but the referee pointed to the spot and awarded the Noles a penalty kick. Abbey Newton stepped up to take it and she delivered a confident strike that ended up in the back of the net even though Pitt keeper Amaia Pena managed to get a fingertip on it.

In the seventh minute Malia Berkely drove the ball into Pitt’s defensive third. She found McFarland who passed it back to Berkely. Berkely made a move and then fired a shot but it was blocked by Pitt. Berkely got the ball back and fired a shot from about 16 yards out. The shot was deflected by O’Donoghue but the deflection went straight to goal. However, Pena was alert for Pitt and was able to dive to her left to make an impressive save.

In the 21st minute Berkely again drove the ball into Pitt territory from her spot on the backline. She found McFarland in the middle of the field. McFarland took a touch and fired a shot from about 24 yards away. It went just wide of the right post.

In the 22nd minute Anna Bout delivered a perfectly weighted pass for Amanda West. West used her speed to split a pair of Seminole defenders but Nole keeper Caroline Jeffers beat her to the ball and snatched it up before West could get to it.

In the 25th minute Yujie Zhao stole the ball in the Panther defensive third. She was fouled about 25 yards from goal. Nighswonger took the free kick for Florida State. Nighswonger ripped a wicked left footed strike that beat the wall and curled toward the goal. It hit the right post and ricocheted onto the field past the goal mouth before being deflected out for a corner kick.

In the 34th minute Nighswonger drove the ball toward the middle of the field. She found Zhao just outside the box. Zhao played give and go with McFarland. Zhao chipped a dangerous ball into the box for McFarland to run onto but it was deflected by Kate McKay for Pitt. Unfortunately for Pitt the ball deflected straight to McFarland who uncorked a shot that was blocked by Pena who made a nice save by coming off her line.

In the 37th minute Nighswonger received a ball from Clara Robbins. Nighswonger turned and drove toward the box but she was knocked down from behind by Hollie Olding. FSU had a free kick from about 26 yards out. Nighswonger took the kick again but this time it flew harmlessly over the goal.

In the 41st minute the Panthers had their best chance of the half. Marisa Tava delivered a nice ball for Bex Bartosh who was wide open down the right flank. Bartosh sent an extremely dangerous cross that went clear across FSU’s goal mouth. Rachel Rasins and Marisa Tava both had chances to head the ball into the goal but neither player could get their head on the ball. Rasins was being marked by Robbins but Tava was open and she just couldn’t get to the ball in time for what would have certainly been the equalizer.

In the 58th minute Zhao drove the ball up the right flank. She then executed a nifty move to get free before unleashing a bending shot from about 27 feet out that just missed the left post.

In the 59th minute Zhao was fouled from behind by Mackenzie Edwards who picked up a yellow card for her efforts. Nighswonger again took the free kick for FSU. This time Nighswonger slipped a cheeky ball into the box. It seemed to surprise the Panther defense and a hustling Jaelin Howell was able control the ball in the box. Howell took a couple of touches to beat goal keeper Pena but she wasn’t able to get her hips around and she missed the open goal with her shot.

In the 60th minute Pitt earned another opportunity. Juliana Vazquez delivered a beautiful diagonal pass from her midfield position to Amanda West who was streaking down the right flank. West was eventually fouled by Kirsten Pavlisko on the right side of the box. Athalie Palomo took the free kick for the Panthers. She sent a left footed cross that went over everyone to the other side of the box. Margret Arnadottir eventually sent it back into the mixer where a couple of players headed it until it bounded out. West tracked it down for Pitt but her cross was blocked and eventually cleared by Leilanni Nesbith for FSU. However, Dixon Veltri was there to keep it in for the Panthers. Veltri sent a dangerous cross into the box that was headed away by Howell. But Pitt regained possession and Anna Rico drove the ball into the box. After a nice step-over Rico sent a dangerous shot on goal that was saved by an alert Jeffers who dived to her left to get a hand on it. Berkely was there to finally clear it for the Noles to end the threat.

In the 65th minute Berkely chipped a ball that found Nighswonger on the right flank. Nighswonger drove the ball at the Pitt defense but she was taken down by Palomo just outside the box. Zhao did not appreciate the foul and got in the face of Palomo. Rico came over to defend her teammate and the referee had to separate Zhao and Rico. Nighswonger took the free kick from just outside the box and she sent a curling ball toward goal that just missed Zhao’s attempted header.

In the 71st minute FSU earned a corner kick. Nighswonger delivered her best corner of the afternoon with a curling left-footed cross into the box. It pinged around in the six before Pena could snag it.

In the 79th minute Kristina Lynch found Zhao darting into the box. Zhao took a touch and sent a shot to goal that just missed the left post.

In the 81st minute Howell and McFarland executed a nice one-two play. McFarland got the ball back off of a deflection and ripped a shot toward goal but Pena was perfectly placed to catch the ball.

From there the Seminoles protected their lead and walked away with the 1-0 victory.

Post Game

This was a paint-it-pink game for cancer awareness. Former Nole and current Orlando Pride defender Toni Pressley has been diagnosed with breast cancer and she was honored today by Florida State.

This was FSU head coach Mark Krikorian’s 100th ACC victory.

This was FSU’s 23rd straight game scoring at least one goal.

Pitt is a program that is rebuilding. The Panthers are now winless in their last 28 ACC games (0-25-3) and FSU is 7-0 vs Pitt with a 23-1 goal advantage. Pitt will very likely improve under former Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum but there is a steep hill to climb in the tough ACC.

Seen in that context this performance was not overly impressive from the Seminoles. FSU won 1-0 against an inferior opponent at home in a game in which the Noles struggled to generate many quality opportunities. FSU was also arguably aided on the goal by the questionable penalty kick call in the second minute.

However, the Seminoles played this game without three starters who missed the game due to national team duties. Deyna Castellanos played for Venezuela in a friendly against Paraguay. Gabby Carle was called up by Canada for for a friendly against Japan in Shizuoka. Heather Payne was called up for a Euro qualifier against Ukraine. Due to these absences, FSU had a very thin bench as only one substitute (Leilanni Nesbith) was used. The Noles were also forced to play players out of position (Abbey Newton and Clara Robbins) due to half of the normal backline being unavailable.

Florida State did not play its best game today but it is very hard to accurately judge the performance due to above context. The Seminoles did outshoot the Panthers 19-2 but Pitt had more opportunities than a team ranked #197 in the RPI should have against the #1 RPI team. Of course FSU wasn’t really the #1 RPI team today with all of the players missing.

Given the context Florida State will be happy with the win. Remember, a team this talented will be judged on the post season not the regular season. FSU wants to repeat as champions so the regular season goal has to be to get the best NCAA Tournament seed possible (hopefully #1) and then be ready to peak at the College Cup. Winning games (in any fashion) will keep the Seminoles high in the RPI which will get them closer to the goal of a top seed. Therefore, any win (including today’s rather uninspired performance) has to be considered a positive.

Next Game

The Seminoles will travel to Blacksburg for a showdown with Virginia Tech on Thursday at 7:30pm. The game with the 23rd ranked Hokies (5th RPI) will be broadcast on RSN.