No. 5 Florida State (14-4, 8-2 ACC, 4th RPI) defeated No. 9 Duke (8-2-7, 3-1-6 ACC, 14th RPI) by a 1-0 score tonight in Tallahassee.
In the 19th minute Deyna Castellanos reversed field sending a ball for Yujie Zhao. Zhao slipped a ball ahead to Heather Payne who was making a run in the box. Payne crossed the ball into the path of Jenna Nighswonger. Nighswonger one-timed a left-footed shot toward goal. Duke keeper Brooke Heinsohn responded with an impressive kick-save to keep the score sheet clean.
In the 31st minute FSU generated another chance. Zhao made a run on the edge of the box. Payne got her the ball, and Zhao delivered a cross into the six that was knocked away by Taylor Mitchell. Nighswonger was there to pounce on the ball and she one-timed a right-footed shot that went over the goal.
In the 32nd minute the Blue Devils had their first chance of the game. Ella Stevens intercepted a pass in FSU’s defensive third. She was able to get by Malia Berkely, but Gabby Carle tracked back and dispossessed her in the box. However, Berkely was called for a hand-ball just outside the box. Berkely protested saying she didn’t even touch the ball, but the referee was unmoved, and Duke had a free kick. Stevens stepped up to take it, and she went for goal, but her shot sailed over the crossbar.
In the 37th minute Duke generated another opportunity. Stevens stole the ball at midfield. She took a touch and delivered a gorgeous ball down field for Emmy Duerr who had slipped behind the defense. Duerr ran onto the ball and one-timed a right-footed blast toward goal. Nole keeper Caroline Jeffers jumped off her line to cut down on Duerr’s angle. Jeffers made a clutch save knocking the ball away, before Berkely cleared the ball out of danger.
In the 39th minute Sarah Piper took a free-kick and booted it down the field into the Seminole defensive third. Delaney Graham eventually managed to track the ball down. Graham used her speed to get past the FSU defense on the right flank. Graham drove the ball into the box and laid it off for Duerr. Berkely came over and kept Duerr from getting off a strong shot. However, the ball ricocheted toward the Seminole goal. Jeffers dove for the ball and kept a charging Mackenzie Pluck from getting a foot on it.
In the 63rd minute Kristen McFarland received the ball in midfield. She laid it off for Zhao. Zhao took a couple of touches and found Nighswonger on the right flank. Nighswonger ran at the defense putting a move on Remi Swartz before firing a left-footed blast that went just past the far post.
In the 77th minute Gabby Carle received the ball in midfield. She put a move on Pluck and drove toward the goal. No one stepped up to challenge Carle, so she sliced toward the box and fired a left-footed shot from about 19 yards away. Heinsohn made a diving save to her left to deny Carle.
In the 78th minute Zhao received the ball in midfield and drove at the Blue Devil defense. She laid the ball off for Castellanos who took a touch and rifled a right-footed shot on goal. Heinsohn came up with a big-time save diving to her left to deny Castellanos.
However, FSU maintained the pressure. Nighswonger ran down the rebound in the right corner. She found McFarland who was posting up in the box. McFarland turned and sent a right-footed blast at goal. Heinsohn displayed her quality, yet again, getting her left hand up just in the nick of time to knock the ball over the crossbar an keep it scoreless.
Finally, in the 79th minute the Seminoles sent a shot toward goal that even Heinsohn couldn’t stop. The ’Noles earned the corner as a result of Heinsohn’s impressive save. The Seminoles took it short and eventually worked it around to Castellanos. Deyna took a couple of touches and teed up a shot from distance - about 30 yards away. It was an unbelievable shot that curled into the upper left hand corner of the goal:
It was Deyna’s 10th goal of the year. She also moved into second place all-time in FSU history with 111 points.
In the end, Duke was not able to manufacture any dangerous chances late, giving FSU a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
It was Senior Night in Tallahassee, and FSU’s two seniors (Jeffers and Castellanos) were honored pre-game and joined by their families on the field.
Florida State had 73% of the possession in this game but much of it (particularly in the first half) was non-threatening. Duke was happy to allow FSU to knock the ball around especially when those passes were occurring on the Seminole defensive side of the field. Later on the game opened up and the Noles were able to generate more threatening offense.
Caroline Jeffers is starting to round into form in goal. She was obviously fantastic in the postseason last year. If she can even approach that level this year the Nole defense will take a big step forward.
What more can be said about Deyna Castellanos? She is obviously dripping with talent and she has the ability to strike at any time. Her presence on the roster makes FSU extremely dangerous. Strikes like the one she launched tonight are virtually indefensible. Nole fans will miss Deyna Castellanos when she graduates but fortunately for Seminole fans she has not yet authored her last chapter at Florida State.
Duke is a quality team but the Blue Devils have been diminished a bit due to season ending injuries to two of their best players in Sophie Jones and Mia Gyau. Therefore the Blue Devils employed a defense that featured five in the back and were content to try to score on counter-attacks.
Florida State played the way that they needed to in order to beat Duke but to win another ACC crown the Noles will likely need to get to another level. The good news for Nole fans is that with the talent on this team they can reach that extra gear. The question will be whether or not they will actually do it.
With the victory FSU finishes in second place in the ACC. Coming into the game the Noles were tied with Virginia for second place in the ACC. Virginia’s game at Syracuse was rained out and will not be made up. Therefore FSU finishes in second with 24 points while UVA finishes in third with 21 points.
Florida State will welcome the Clemson Tigers to Tallahassee for the first round of the ACC Tournament. The game is scheduled for 1pm on Sunday and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.