No. 2 Florida State (9-0) defeated No. 14 Notre Dame (4-5) today by a 2-0 score to advance to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament in Cary, NC.
The Noles generated an early opportunity in the fifth minute. Off of a throw-in Heather Payne found LeiLanni Nesbeth moving upfield. Nesbeth eventually laid the ball off for Kaitlyn Zipay who was lurking in the middle of the field. Zipay took a couple of touches and than rocketed a left-footed blast from about 19 yards away that sailed just barely over the crossbar.
In the 21st minute Malia Berkely picked out Payne who was posting up at the edge of the 18 yard box. Payne couldn’t control the pass cleanly and the ball pinged around a bit before Payne was able to get a foot on it to knock it into the path of Emily Madril who was battling the ND defense. Madril one-timed a right footed blast that was blocked at the last minute by a sliding Jenna Winebrenner.
In the 28th minute Notre Dame generated a good chance. Brianna Martinez received the ball in midfield. She took a couple of touches before delivering a beautiful ball to Eva Hurm who was racing down the right flank. Hurm had timed her run well managing to avoid the offside call. Hurm reached the ball at the endline and tried to square it back for a teammate but her pass was blocked by a hustling Payne.
FSU kept up the pressure. In the 41st minute Lauren Flynn kept the ball in after an attempted Irish clearance. Flynn took the ball into Notre Dame’s defensive third before passing it over to Makala Thomas who was providing an outlet. Thomas took a couple of touches before squaring the ball up for a charging Yujie Zhao who unleashed a right-footed cracker from about 23 yards out. The ball was dipping and it took a bounce right before goal but Irish keeper Mattie Interian came up with a sparkling save diving to her right to deny Zhao.
However, the Seminoles would not be deterred. In the 44th minute Gabby Carle tried to play the long ball from midfield down the right flank for a streaking Thomas. Olivia Wingate was there to head the ball out of bounds for a corner. Jenna Nighswonger took the corner for FSU driving the ball into the six. Jaelin Howell got up and headed the ball into the back of the net. Howell took full advantage of some bad luck for the Irish on the play. Goalkeeper Interian was watching the flight of the ball as Nighswonger sent it into the box. She unfortunately ran into Martinez and both players went to the ground briefly. That slip was all Howell needed as she sent the ball right past the fallen Irish defense.
In the 60th minute the Noles earned another chance. Berkely found Payne on the left flank. Payne was being defended by Martinez but she managed to deliver a dangerous cross into the box. Kristen McFarland received the pass and eventually left it for an open Clara Robbins who one-timed a right footed shot that went just wide of the goal from 19 feet away.
FSU secured some insurance in the 79th minute. The Seminoles were possessing the ball in the Irish defensive third. Nighswonger found Flynn open on the left flank. Flynn drove the ball to the middle of the field but had it knocked away by Winebrenner. The ball went straight to Robbins who took a touch and then fired a right footed shot that hit the inside of the right post before bouncing into the back of the net. It was the third goal of the season for Robbins and it gave FSU the winning 2-0 margin. Robbins didn’t hit the ball particularly hard but it was perfectly placed and Interian had no chance.
From there the Noles closed out the game and advanced to the semifinals with a comfortable 2-0 victory.
FSU outshot ND 17 (4 on goal) to 4 (0 on goal).
The Irish were thrashed 5-0 by the Noles in the first meeting. They responded to that game by employing the bunker strategy to limit FSU’s opportunities. This strategy worked in the sense that it kept the Noles from scoring five goals. However, it allowed Florida State to dominate possession and to keep constant pressure on the Irish defense.
The Seminoles haven’t played in over a week so this was a good game to get back into the swing of things. However, the Noles weren’t really challenged defensively in this one and that will likely change as the competition gets a bit tougher.
Florida State will play the winner of the Clemson vs. Duke quarterfinal on Friday at 5:30pm. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.