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No. 2 FSU soccer outlasts No. 3 Clemson to complete a perfect regular season

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A freshman steals the show on Senior Day.

2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

No. 2 Florida State (8-0) defeated No. 3 Clemson (6-3) today by a 2-0 score at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Tallahassee, FL.

Game Recap

In the 42nd minute Malia Berkely tackled the ball away from Lauren Bruns. The ball rolled away and Jenna Nighswonger hustled over to knock it to Jody Brown who was sprinting upfield. Brown used her speed to split two defenders. With defender Harper White on her back the entire way Brown managed to take the ball into the box where she fired a right-footed blast toward goal from about 13 yards out. Clemson freshman keeper Halle Mackiewicz came off her line to cut off Brown’s angle. Mackiewicz did a great job to make herself big and stuck out her right foot to deny Brown with a spectacular save. The ball rebounded back to Brown. Mackiewicz was on Brown’s back but Brown was able to shield her from the ball as Jenna Nighswonger moved into position. Brown laid the ball off for Nighswonger who one-timed a left-footed strike for goal at the edge of the box. Mackiewicz came up huge yet again tracking back to her line and getting her hands up to block Nighswonger’s effort.

Florida State generated another chance in the 62nd minute. Emily Madril drove the ball upfield from her spot on the backline. Madril found Nighswonger who delivered a ball for Clara Robbins on the right flank. Robbins one-timed a pass for Madril who was knifing through the box. Madril took a touch and then rifled a right-footed shot toward goal. Her shot was slightly deflected by Caroline Conti. Mackiewicz made another impressive save to get her hands up to block the ball away.

In the 70th minute FSU earned a free kick when Yujie Zhao was tripped up by Hal Hershfelt. Zhao took the free kick and played it back for Berkely. Berkely spotted Clara Robbins on the right flank and switched the field for her. Robbins took the ball and dribbled past Conti freeing herself for a left-footed blast from about 20 yards away. Clara’s shot was rising and Mackiewicz looked to have gotten a finger on it to barely deflect it up and it clanged off the crossbar. Mackiewicz was standing on her head at this point. It could have easily been 2-0 FSU without her great saves.

However, the Noles kept up the pressure. In the 73rd minute Nighswonger tackled the ball away from Hershfelt. Zhao came up with it. Zhao got it back to Nighswonger who took a couple of touches before cracking a left footed drive from about 23 yards away. Mackiewicz sparkled yet again by diving to her left to snatch Nighswonger’s attempt out of the air catching it with no rebound.

The Seminoles would finally break through in the 79th minute. Zhao took the ball up the right flank and spotted Brown sneaking past Clemson’s back line. From about a yard past midfield Zhao delivered a perfect pass about 40 yards in the air that fell exactly at Brown’s feet. Brown had timed her run brilliantly using her speed to beat Megan Bornkamp. Brown ran onto the ball and used her right foot to chip it over a charging Mackiewicz for FSU’s first goal of the day.

In the 90th minute the Noles sealed the deal. Robbins stole a 50-50 ball in midfield. She one-timed a perfect right-footed pass into the path of Brown who was charging up the field. Brown used her speed to get behind the Clemson defenders and found herself one on one with the keeper. Mackiewicz came off her line to challenge Brown but Jody calmly took a touch to get by her before sending a left footed shot into the back of the net. It was Brown’s second goal of the game and fourth of the year.

From there FSU finished off the game to complete a perfect 8-0 regular season.

Post Game

FSU had 12 shots in the game (10 on goal) while the Tigers had 3 shots (0 on goal).

Today was Senior Day as Gabby Carle, Malia Berkely and Kristen McFarland were honored.

As you can see from the game recap, there wasn’t much notable action in the beginning of the game. This was mainly due to Clemson’s defensive effort. The Tigers didn’t bunker but they definitely prioritized the defense. Clemson was organized and sturdy in the back and they were able to limit Florida State’s chances early. However, when the reserves came in the Noles were able to change the game a bit.

Basically this season FSU has had the defense (GK Cristina Roque, Malia Berkely, Kirsten Pavlisko, Gabby Carle, Emily Madril and HM Jaelin Howell) play the entire 90 minutes while the rest of the starters have been substituted for on a regular basis. Today the starters were not that effective but the reserves were able to find success. In other games we have seen the reverse. This illustrates the strength of this team. There is talent up and down this roster and if one player is having an off day there are plenty of others more than capable of picking up the slack.

Today was Senior Day which means that it could be the last game in Tallahassee for Carle, Berkely and McFarland. However, as you probably know things are always different in the Age of Covid. The NCAA has determined that all Fall sports (and now all Spring sports) will get a special dispensation so that this year will not count toward a player’s eligibility clock. This means that all three seniors have the option to return to Tallahassee for one more season. Also, there are plans to have a Spring soccer season that would culminate in a 48 team NCAA Tournament. I have been told that FSU expects Carle to participate in the spring if there actually is a spring season. McFarland and Berkely may also come back but those decisions haven’t been officially made yet.

With today’s win Florida State has wrapped up the top seed in the ACC Tournament. North Carolina has beaten Notre Dame 2-0 to match FSU’s 8-0 conference record but the Tar Heels lose out to FSU on the third tie-breaker to determine the top seed in the Tournament.

The first two tie-breakers are:

a. Total points in head-to-head conference game results.

b. Most wins in overall conference game results among common opponents.

The two teams are still tied using those two tie-breakers. The third tie-breaker is:

c. Goal differential (goals scored minus goals allowed) in overall conference game results.

This is where FSU wins the top seed. Florida State has scored 25 goals this year while conceding only four for a plus 21 goal differential. UNC has 19 goals in official ACC play after defeating Notre Dame 2-0 tonight. The Heels have only conceded three goals this year for a plus 16 goal differential.

This is important as FSU will now have an easier road to the ACC Tournament Final. Florida State will meet Notre Dame in the first round. The Noles humbled the Irish 5-0 in their first meeting this year. If they would have lost the tie-breaker they would have faced Virginia Tech. However, the big benefit to getting the top seed is that FSU now gets to avoid a healthy Virginia team in the semi-finals. The Noles would now get the winner of the Clemson-Duke first round game. That’s no picnic but it’s better than facing a very talented UVA squad.

Next Game

Florida State will meet Notre Dame (4-4) in the first round of the ACC Tournament. All games will be played at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. The game will be on Tuesday, Nov. 10th and will be broadcast on the ACC Network. The game will kickoff at 12:30pm.