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No. 2 Florida State soccer outlasts No. 11 Virginia in a high octane affair

A brace from Clara Robbins powers Florida State to the impressive victory.

Syndication: Tallahassee Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via Imagn Content Services, LLC

No. 2 Florida State (6-0) defeated no. 11 Virginia (5-2-1) by a 4-3 score today in Charlottesville, VA.

Game Recap

Florida State broke the scoring ice early. In the 11th minute Malia Berkely switched the field for Kaitlyn Zipay on the right flank. Zipay ran onto the ball and delivered a one-touch cross to LeiLanni Nesbeth who was trailing the play. Nesbeth was unmarked as she rocketed a one-touch right footed blast past UVA keeper Laurel Ivory from about 13 yards out into the back of the net. It was the fourth goal of the season for Nesbeth. The Seminole sophomore has an absolute howitzer for a leg. We have seen her score from distance and when she is this close her power can make her shots indefensible. This play was well executed by the Noles. Kristen McFarland was running ahead of Nesbeth and she drew two defenders leaving Nesbeth open for Zipay’s excellent cross.

In the 13th minute the Seminoles struck again. Jaelin Howell stole a pass in the midfield. Howell attacked UVA defender Sarah Clark on the left flank. Howell eventually delivered a left footed cross onto the edge of the six. The ball was deflected off of Claire Constant’s foot and a hustling Clara Robbins pounced on it. Robbins one-timed a left footed strike past Ivory for FSU’s second goal of the day. It was the first ever goal for Virginia native Robbins in garnet and gold.

In the 15th minute FSU almost had a third goal. Gabby Carle spotted Kristina Lynch on the left flank. Lynch attacked Clark and got by her after a physical battle. Anna Sumpter came over to challenge Lynch but got called for a foul after taking Lynch down at the edge of the box. Nesbeth took the free kick for FSU and went straight for goal. Ivory was positioned perfectly and caught the ball with no rebound.

In the 28th minute the Hoos generated their first good chance of the game. Lia Godfrey dribbled the ball through FSU’s midfield with no resistance. She eventually spotted a wide open Rebecca Jarrett racing down the right flank. Jarrett found herself one on one with FSU’s keeper Cristina Roque. Roque came off her line to cut down Jarrett’s angle and Jarrett’s right footed shot went just wide right of the goal hitting the side netting.

Virginia cut the lead in the 34th minute and again it was Jarrett causing all sorts of trouble for the Seminole defense. Alexa Spaanstra stole the ball for UVA and dribbled up the field for the Cavaliers in transition. She eventually delivered a gorgeous ball for Jarrett who had again found a way to get behind the Nole defense. Berkely raised her hand for an offside call but the assistant referee kept his flag down. Jarrett received the ball in the box and was immediately taken down by Gabby Carle. The whistle was quickly blown and the ref pointed to the spot awarding the Cavs a penalty kick. This was an easy call. Carle was clearly guilty of the foul and it was inside the box. In fact, there are some referees who would have seriously considered a red card here as one criteria for assessing a red card is denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity with a deliberate foul. Carle definitely denied Jarrett a goal scoring opportunity with a foul but since she was going for the ball the ref determined that the foul wasn’t deliberate. In any case UVA had a golden opportunity to get on the board with a penalty kick. Spaanstra stepped up to take it and she made no mistake rifling a shot into the right side of the net.

UVA kept striving to get the equalizer. In the 38th minute the Hoos earned a corner kick. Godfrey stepped up to take it. She sent a ball into the box. Sumpter got up to flick on a header. Her header went to Lacey McCormack who managed to head the ball down toward goal. Roque was positioned well to make a nice save on the bounce to preserve the lead for the Noles.

In the 42nd minute Florida State widened the lead. Jody Brown attacked the UVA defense from the middle of the field. Clark knocked the ball away from her but it ricocheted straight to Yujie Zhao. Zhao fired for goal but Clark got her foot up to deflect it out of bounds for a corner. Zhao stepped up to take the corner for FSU. She sent a dangerous ball into the middle of the six that bounced off of Talia Staude’s hip into the net for an own goal. The Seminoles now had a 3-1 lead.

Virginia wouldn’t quit. In the 58th minute the Hoos crept closer. Howell dribbled the ball into the UVA defensive third. Godfrey came from behind an dispossessed Howell with a very aggressive tackle. Many referees would have called her for a foul but in this case the whistle stayed silent. Howell went down in a heap and had to leave the game although she would return. On the turnover, Sumpter eventually found a wide open Lizzy Sieracki racing down the right flank. Sieracki took a touch and then delivered a perfect right-footed cross into the six. Diana Ordonez did a great job to split a pair of Nole defenders and delivered a sharp header into the goal to cut the lead to 3-2.

In the 63rd minute the Cavaliers generated another chance. Jarrett drove the ball through the midfield and tried to pick out Spaanstra in the box. Kirsten Pavlisko managed to get a slight touch on the ball to direct it out of bounds for a corner. On the ensuing corner UVA sent the ball into the scrum in the six yard box. Sieracki jumped up into the air and shouldered the ball toward the goal. Zhao was there guarding the post and she knocked the ball away. Unfortunately it went right in the path of Emily Madril who couldn’t stop her momentum and she knocked the ball into the goal for an own goal that tied the score at three.

In the 68th minute Kristen McFarland hustled onto a long ball from Berkely. McFarland ran onto the ball in the box and was taken down by Claire Constant. The referee ruled that there was no foul but that easily could have been a penalty. In any case McFarland got up and drove the ball to the endline before crossing it into the six. Ivory blocked the ball away from goal and the Hoos were eventually able to clear it away.

In the 72nd minute McCormack took the ball away from a charging Robbins. McCormack tried a back pass to Ivory in goal. Jody Brown used her speed to intercept the pass. Ivory came well off her line to block Brown’s left footed one-timer from about 13 yards out. it was a sparkling save from Ivory to keep the score tied. The ball deflected over the line for an FSU corner. Zhao took the corner for the Noles. She lobbed a ball to the edge of the six. Robbins skied into the air for a header that was headed straight for goal. However, she was denied by another outstanding save from Ivory who dove to her left to keep the game tied. However, Ivory was not able to control it and she spilled the ball out to a lurking Ran Iwai who one timed a right footed blast to goal but again Ivory was there for the impressive reflex save.

In the 81st minute FSU secured the game winning goal. Howell passed the ball back for a charging Carle who worked her way down the left flank. Carle tried to cross it into the box but it was blocked out of bounds by Clark for a corner. Zhao took the corner for FSU. She delivered a ball to the near post and Madril flicked it on with a header. It hit Staude in the thigh. The ball fell down right in front of goal and Robbins came in and alertly knocked it in for her second goal of the day to give the Seminoles the 4-3 winning margin.

From there the Noles were able to hold on for their seventh straight road win dating back to last season.

Post Game

FSU outshot UVA 14 (9 on goal) to 6 (5 on goal).

This is a different Seminole team from last year. The year’s edition is still capable of cranking up the possession but they aren’t dependent on it. Neither of today’s first two goals were the result of possession tactics. UVA was able to disrupt FSU’s possession for much of the game but the Noles were able to generate offense anyway. The Seminoles don’t have to dominate possession in the midfield this year to win and that provides the team much more overall versatility.

Virginia has been ravaged by injuries this year but they were as healthy as they have been all year for this game. Taryn Torres, Talia Staude and Laurel Ivory all returned for this game and Alexa Spaanstra returned in their last game against Louisville. This isn’t the same team that lost 3-0 earlier in the year at Clemson. This was the elite Virginia team that most people expected to see this year. This was a heavyweight matchup and Florida State landed the last big shot to win the game. However, it must be said that UVA will likely get better later in the year as the players returning from injury shake off the rust. The Cavaliers will be a very dangerous team in the ACC Tournament next month.

I know that (5) Duke and (4) Clemson have high rankings but neither team is really on FSU’s or (a healthy) UVA’s level. This was FSU’s first and likely last major regular season test. The Noles passed but there are still some concerns.

The Seminoles are a bit vulnerable to set pieces. As every coach will tell you, the best way to defend set pieces is to not allow them. However, we all know that it is impossible to avoid them entirely. The Noles will have to figure out how to be better in this area against the other elite teams.

Goal keeper Cristina Roque is obviously very talented. However, she is still a freshman. There are times where it seems that she isn’t totally comfortable commanding her area around goal. At times there seems like there are communication problems between her and her two centerbacks (Malia Berkely and Emily Madril). Both of these issues will almost certainly improve with time but in this shortened fall season time is in shorter supply than usual.

Clara Robbins is a redshirt senior who has spent her career at FSU being an indispensible glue player doing all the little things to help her team win. She finally got to step into the spotlight with her first two goals of her Seminole career. It is ironic (and probably even sweeter for her) that those goals came against her home state team.

Florida State is currently ranked second in the polls to North Carolina. Unfortunately the two teams will not meet in the regular season. However, based on results it is fair to question whether the right team is at the top of the polls. There is a good chance that this will be settled on the field in the ACC Championship Game but right now I think that we have a 1 and 1A at the top of the polls and it is not clear which team is which.

As you know from reading the game recap, Jaelin Howell played in this game. That is a surprise since we all thought that she would be in Colorado participating in the US Women’s National Team training camp. It seems that Howell was allowed to play in this game and leave for the camp right after. In any case the Noles were certainly happy to have her in Garnet and Gold for this game.

Next Game

Florida State will take a week off before hosting (5) Duke (5-1-2, 3-1-2 ACC) on Thursday, October 29th at 4pm at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The game will be broadcast on Regional Sports Networks. Duke pasted Syracuse today 4-0.