(6) Florida State (9-2, 3-0 ACC, #1 RPI) defeated Syracuse (2-6-2, 0-2-1 ACC, #264 RPI) by a 1-0 score today in Syracuse at the SU Soccer Stadium.
Florida State enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession throughout the game. In the 17th minute that possession translated into a good chance for the Seminoles. Heather Payne passed the ball into the Syracuse defensive third where Deyna Castellanos was waiting. Castellanos received the ball with her back to goal before trying to turn attempting to beat Jenna Tivnan with a flick over Tivnan’s head. Instead Tivnan tripped up Castellanos and was called for a foul. Castellanos took the free kick from about 23 yards out but it went straight into the wall.
In the 20th minute Payne drove the ball into the Syracuse defensive third. She found Kristen McFarland just outside the box with her back to goal. McFarland laid the ball off for Castellanos who took a touch and then ripped a right-footed shot from about 19 yards out that just barely went over the crossbar.
In the 26th minute Jaelin Howell headed a ball to Yujie Zhao. Zhao turned and sent a pass down the right flank for a charging Jenna Nighswonger. Syracuse defender Kailey Brenner was running with Nighswonger step for step. However, before either player could reach the ball Brenner tripped up Nighswonger and was called for the foul. FSU was awarded a free kick just off the right corner of Syracuse’s box. Nighswonger took the free kick and sent it to the back post trying to curve it into the goal but her shot went wide.
In the 28th minute Kirsten Pavlisko passed the ball to Castellanos in the midfield. Castellanos couldn’t handle the pass and Gianna Villoresi stole the ball for Syracuse. Castellanos challenged her to get it back and Villoresi inadvertently whacked Castellanos in the face with her forearm. Villoresi was shown yellow and Florida State was awarded a free kick.
In the 34th minute Zhao collected a ball with her back to goal. She made a nice move to get free, dribbled a few times to find space and smacked a left footed shot from about 20 yards out that was caught by Syracuse keeper Lysianne Proulx. That was FSU’s first shot on goal.
Also in the 34th minute, Malia Berkely drove the ball into the Orange defensive third. She executed a nice give and go with McFarland and blasted a left-footed strike from about 19 yards out. Proulx made a nice save on Berkely’s shot that was dipping toward the lower left corner of the goal. Berkely took the ensuing corner and lofted a ball into the box. Jaelin Howell did a nice job to get up and get her head to the ball directing it toward goal but Proulx was perfectly positioned for the relatively easy catch.
However, Howell wasn’t done. In the 38th minute Howell collected the ball at midfield. She turned and dribbled the ball up the field eventually taking it all the way to the edge of the box before taking a right footed shot that was caught again by Proulx.
In the 39th minute the Noles earned another corner. Berkely stepped up to take it. She sent a dangerous ball into the six. Howell displayed impressive athleticism to get up and head the ball back toward goal. The ball bounced inside the six before being knocked away by the defense. Abbey Newton was there to keep the ball in but her follow-up shot was blocked and eventually cleared.
In the 41st minute the Noles kept up the pressure. Nighswonger found Berkely cutting across the field. Berkely took a couple of touches before turning a firing a left-footed shot toward goal from just inside the box. Proulx was forced to come up with another impressive save to keep her clean sheet.
In the 52nd minute Payne slipped a nice ball into the path of Nighswonger who was slicing into the box. Nighswonger crossed the ball over to a charging McFarland. McFarland couldn’t catch up with it and the ball went clear across the goal mouth where FSU’s Newton and Clarke Brown of Syracuse battled for the ball. The ball went out for a Florida State corner but the Seminoles couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
In the 55th minute Payne spotted Castellanos open in the midfield. Castellanos turned and sent the ball for Newton down the left flank. Newton one-timed a dangerous shot toward goal and Proulx did a good job to get her hand up to redirect it away.
In the 58th minute the Seminoles generated their best chance of the game to this point. Pavlisko laid the ball off for Zhao who turned and ran at the Syracuse defense. Zhao slipped a beautiful pass between a pair of defenders to McFarland. McFarland crossed the ball back to Pavlisko at the edge of the six. Pavlisko couldn’t get to it and it rolled all the way over to Nighswonger who one-timed a left-footed shot that went just over the goal.
In the 72nd minute Zhao collected a pass from Payne and drove toward the box. She was taken down from behind by Kailee Coonan. The referee awarded a free kick which FSU took from about 21 yards from goal. Castellanos drove the ball right into the wall.
In the 74th minute the Seminoles finally got on the board. Payne found Zhao in the midfield. Zhao turned a chipped a lovely ball to Castellanos who was cutting into the box. Castellanos did a great job to control the ball with her chest which allowed her to turn and send a shot that was perfectly placed into the lower left corner of the goal to give the Seminoles the lead at 1-0. It was a team leading seventh goal of the season for the Venezuelan superstar.
FSU was able to salt the rest of the game away and the Noles walked away with another victory.
Syracuse is struggling as a program right now. The Orange weren’t able to win or tie a single ACC game last year. They tied Pitt 1-1 on Sept. 20th of this year for their first ACC win or tie since they tied Virginia Tech 0-0 on Oct. 26th, 2017. The Orange have now gone 17 straight ACC games without a win. Their last ACC win was against Miami 1-0 on Oct. 11th, 2017. On top of all that the Orange have been ravaged by injuries. They have lost 11 players off their roster to injury. While I do believe that first year coach Nicky Adams has the Orange headed in the right direction it is going to take time.
I wrote the previous paragraph to illustrate that the Orange are presently nowhere near FSU’s level as a program. That helps to explain FSU’s performance today. Simply put, it appears that the Noles took Syracuse lightly. Florida State wasn’t sharp for most of this game. That combined with some impressive goal keeping from Lysianne Proulx resulted in the close scoreline. To be sure, the game wasn’t really close as FSU dominated possession and led 23-2 in shots. However, SU’s bunker style defense that kept 11 players behind the ball for most of the game frustrated FSU’s offense until Castellanos and Zhao found the key to unlock it with their brilliance.
Brooke Bollinger started in goal for FSU. She was credited with two “saves” but calling them saves is quite generous. In actuality Bollinger faced virtually no pressure today from the depleted Cuse. There has been quite a bit of discussion lately about FSU’s goal keeping situation. I have not had the chance to ask the staff about it recently but it is clear what the strategy is regarding the goal keepers. Caroline Jeffers is the #1 keeper but it doesn’t seem like the staff is 100% sold on her therefore they want to keep Bollinger sharp in case a change is needed. This is why Bollinger has played recently against weaker competition (Syracuse, Villanova). Jeffers has played better recently (she was good against Clemson) but this is a situation to keep an eye on in the future.
FSU again employed a short bench. The only substitute who played significant minutes was Makala Thomas. Alyssa Conarton played less than four minutes while Kristina Lynch played slightly over nine first half minutes. This is a situation that will require further monitoring as FSU’s already thin bench will get tested in the next two games. Gabby Carle has been called up by Canada to play vs Japan in Shizuoka, Japan. That game is Oct. 6th so she will definitely miss the Pitt game and may miss the Virginia Tech game on Oct. 10th. Heather Payne has been called up by Ireland to play in a Euro qualifier against Ukraine. That game will be Oct. 8th so Payne will miss the Pitt game and probably the Virginia Tech game as well. The Seminoles will face a tough test against the Hokies if both players are out for that game. We will discuss it as the game approaches and we get more clarity on the situation.
The bottom line is that while the Noles were not at their best today they still got the win and that is obviously what matters most. It is probably too much to ask for a team to play its best every game of an 18+ game schedule. Therefore, teams will sometimes have to win ugly. That is what Florida State did today.
The Noles will return to Tallahassee on Saturday, October 5th to face the Pitt Panthers. The game will kick off at 1pm and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.