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Top-seeded FSU soccer advances to the Sweet 16 with a win over Brown

Kristen McFarland continues her hot streak.

(1) Florida State (17-5, #4 RPI) defeated Brown (14-2-3, #10 RPI) by a 2-0 score tonight at the Seminole Soccer Complex.

Game Recap

In the 20th minute Abbey Newton switched the field for Gabby Carle. Carle immediately attacked the Bear defense and uncorked a left-footed cracker that was caught by a well placed Kayla Thompson in goal. Thompson did well to catch it because it seemed to take a bit of a deflection off of defender Rachyl Francisco.

In the 23rd minute Heather Payne received a pass from Carle down the right flank. Payne challenged the defenders and delivered a cross for Kristen McFarland in the box. McFarland turned and laid the ball off for a charging Jaelin Howell. Howell one-timed a right footed blast from a foot outside the box. However, Howell’s shot was blocked by a well placed Lauren Hinton.

In the 28th minute Carle found Jenna Nighswonger on the right flank. Nighswonger drove to the endline before sending a cross into the box. McFarland touched it over to a wide open Howell. Howell one-timed a right footed rocket toward goal. Thompson dove to her right to make a sparkling save to deny Howell. The ball went out of bounds for an FSU corner kick.

Deyna Castellanos stepped up to take the corner. Castellanos played it short to Payne who immediately passed it back to Castellanos. Deyna then lofted the ball into the box. Abbey Newton got up to head the ball back toward goal. McFarland was in the right place - as usual - and she was able to head the ball down bouncing it past Thompson and into the goal to break the ice for Florida State.

In the 42nd minute Carle was working down the right flank and she pulled it back eventually squaring the ball up for a trailing Malia Berkely charging up from the back line. Berkely received the ball, made a move and then fired a right footed laser from distance. Thompson was there to make the save on the sharply struck ball.

In the 47th minute Berkely sent a pass for Yujie Zhao that was deflected to McFarland in the box. McFarland battled with the defense before laying it back for an open Zhao just outside the box. Zhao one-timed a right footed shot that went just over the crossbar.

In the 70th minute Newton found Castellanos a couple of yards outside the box. Castellanos took on three defenders eventually freeing herself to rifle a right footed shot toward goal. Thompson was there to make a brilliant save diving to her left to deny Castellanos.

In the 76th minute Castellanos was working against the defense on the right flank. From about three yards to the right of the box she sent in a wicked bending ball that was ticketed for a spot just inside the left post. However, Thompson dove to her right just barely knocking it away with her right hand to make another impressive save.

In the 83rd minute Brown had an opportunity. Brittany Raphino intercepted a ball in her own defensive third and bullied her way up the field for the Bears. She eventually slipped a nice ball through the defense for the speedy Star White. White managed to get her left foot on the ball and forced FSU keeper Caroline Jeffers to dive to her left for the save.

In the 88th minute Carle cleared the ball way down field. McFarland chased it down but Sydney Cummings beat her to the ball. Cummings passed the ball back to her keeper Kayla Thompson. McFarland kept charging in order to put pressure on Thompson. Thompson tried to clear the ball but she knocked it off of McFarland’s back and it ricocheted into the empty goal to give FSU the 2-0 lead. It was the second brace in a row for McFarland.

From there the Noles were able to salt the game away and earn the 2-0 victory and a berth into the Sweet 16.

Post Game

Florida State dominated this game. The Seminoles had a whopping 75%-25% advantage in possession. The Noles also outshot the Bears 17-5.

Brown was ranked 10th in the RPI but it was obvious that the Bears had a healthy amount of respect for FSU. Perhaps too much as Brown basically parked the bus for the entire game rarely straying outside of their bunker defense. They were hoping to limit FSU’s offensive chances while capitalizing on a counter-attack or perhaps getting lucky with a foul call. This strategy didn’t work because the Seminoles were able to generate too many chances and they were able to cash in on a couple of them.

We are seeing the best of Kristen McFarland right now. Her two best qualities are her finishing ability and her nose for the ball. Both of those qualities are on clear display right now as she can’t stop scoring goals. FSU really needs for her hot streak to continue as the competition gets tougher.

Florida State is playing well right now but the competition has hardly challenged them. Nole fans hope that this team is simply rounding into form and will continue to get better. This needs to be the case because as the tournament goes forward the better teams will put FSU’s defense under greater stress and Noles have to prove that they are up to the task.

Next Game

The Seminoles will face a quick turnaround as they will meet the University of South Florida (16-4, #17 Coaches, #24 RPI) on Sunday at 1pm at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The Bulls advanced in the early game over Washington 2-0 on the strength of a pair of goals from superstar striker Evelyne Viens who now has 25 goals on the season. For context, FSU’s top goal scorer, Deyna Castellanos, has 11 goals this season. It will be very interesting to see what type of plan Mark Krikorian devises to try to stop Viens.