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No. 2 FSU soccer soars past No. 6 Duke to advance to the ACC Tournament Final

The Seminoles wear down a brave Duke side to advance.

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

No. 2 Florida State (10-0) defeated No. 6 Duke (7-4-2) by a 4-0 score tonight in the semifinal of the ACC Tournament in Cary, NC.

Game Recap

Duke started the game strong. In the third minute Karlie Paschall ran down an errant pass in the midfield. She avoided an attempted tackle from Malia Berkely and had acres of space in front of her. Paschall took the ball down the right flank before firing a shot from 16 yards out but Cristina Roque dove to her right to make a nice save with no rebound.

In the 16th minute Leilanni Nesbeth released Kristina Lynch on the left flank. Lynch drove the ball unmarked to the edge of the six where she laid the ball off for Clara Robbins who was charging toward goal. Lily Nabet came out of nowhere to knock the ball away from Robbins at the last second but the deflection went straight to Kaitlyn Zipay who was wide open in the box. Zipay tried a left footed one-timer but it was blocked off the line by an alert Mia Gyau. Robbins was there for the rebound but her shot sailed high over the goal.

In the 26th minute Duke stole the ball at midfield. Delaney Graham tried to get up the field to receive the pass but she was taken down by Emily Madril who was assessed a yellow card for the foul. As a result the Blue Devils had a free kick from about 23 yards out. Caitlin Cosme took the kick and delivered a wicked shot that was slicing toward the lower left corner of the goal. However, Roque was again up to the task as she dove to her right to block Cosme’s shot. Graham ran up to try to score on the rebound but her attempt was blocked by a hustling Lauren Flynn.

The Noles broke the ice in the 31st minute. Madril drove the ball into the midfield and found Jenna Nighswonger. Jenna took a touch and then delivered a perfectly weighted chip into the path of Jody Brown who was streaking down the middle of the field. Brown timed her run brilliantly to slip past the Blue Devil defense. Brown caught up to the ball and slotted a right footed one-timer past Duke keeper Ruthie Jones to give FSU a 1-0 lead. It was the fifth goal of the year for Brown.

In the 44th minute Sydney Simmons did a good job keeping in an attempted Florida State clearance. She chipped a ball to Mackenzie Pluck who was posting up at the edge of the 18 yard box. With her back to goal Pluck settled the ball and shot a cheeky ball toward the upper left corner of the goal. It didn’t look like it had a chance but somehow the ball kept dipping and would have probably ended up in the back of the net but Roque leapt up and knocked it away at the last second.

In the 49th minute Taylor Mitchell found Sophie Jones racing down the right flank. Jones received the ball and tried to put moves on Gabby Carle. Jones got a step on Carle and she sent a cross into the box. Delaney Graham was there and she stuck her left foot out to redirect it to the goal. However, Madril was there to block it off the line and Berkely cleared it away.

FSU got some insurance in the 60th minute. The Noles pressured Duke into allowing three straight corners. The third time was a charm for the Seminoles. Nesbeth delivered a dangerous ball into the Duke box. It was punched away by Jones but the ball went straight to Jaelin Howell who settled it with her chest before pounding the ball into the back of the net for a 2-0 Nole lead.

In the 64th minute the Noles created another tantalizing opportunity. Berkely sent a long ball from the midfield into the Blue Devil defensive third. Zipay managed to track it down. She laid the ball off for Clara Robbins at the edge of the box. Robbins sent a square ball over to Nesbeth who took a couple of dribbles to her right before firing a laser toward goal that skidded off the crossbar.

In the 65th minute FSU earned another corner kick. Nesbeth sent a searching ball into the box. Robbins went high in the air to head it down into the six. The ball went past Kristen McFarland who shielded the keeper so that Kristina Lynch could knock the ball toward goal with a left footed strike. The ball bounced off of Cosme before ending up in the goal. Lynch was credited with the goal but it is possible that it is changed to an own goal.

In the 77th minute the Seminoles continued the onslaught. Yujie Zhao found Howell in the midfield. Howell sent it over to Heather Payne who was racing down the right flank. Payne delivered a gorgeous cross for Nighswonger who had managed to get by a Duke defense that was pushing up for a goal. Nighswonger clinically one-timed a left footed strike into the back of the net.

The Blue Devils didn’t quit. In the 82nd minute Pluck picked off an errant pass in midfield. She took the turnover down and rifled a right footed shot from about 21 yards out. Again Roque was up to the task as the freshman keeper got up to knock the ball over the crossbar to keep her clean sheet intact.

From there the Seminoles were able to close out the game to get into the ACC Tournament Final with a hard earned 4-0 win.

Post Game

The Seminoles advance to their seventh ACC Tournament Final in the last 10 years.

Duke had 13 shots (10 on goal) while FSU had 19 shots (8 on goal). That was the most shots the Noles have given up all season.

As the previous stat reveals, this was not your normal 4-0 game. Duke actually had the better of the play early and after the game Jaelin Howell admitted that the Noles may have been taken a bit by surprise by Duke’s formation change. Duke played a 4-4-2 for the first time this year. Usually they play a 4-3-3. They changed their formation to pressure FSU’s star centerbacks (Malia Berkely and Emily Madril) and to try to make it difficult for them to initiate offense from the back. In effect Duke’s forwards were marking FSU’s defenders. This high pressure attack seemed to pay dividends early as the Noles seemed to be taken a bit out of their game. However, the downside to this high pressure tactic is that it is hard to keep up this pressure for the entire game and it opens up space in the defending third. Florida State took advantage of both of these downsides to score goals.

FSU may have the deepest team in the nation. ESPN announcer Julie Foudy commented that she had no problem with Duke’s new tactic but it didn’t ultimately work because “I think you just got too much talent at too many different areas on this team for Florida State. It’s a lot to handle for 90 minutes.”

Duke is a good team but in a normal year (when the whole nation is playing) the Blue Devils would not be ranked sixth. I think they would be somewhere in the 8-15 range if everyone was playing. Therefore they are absolutely a good team but they aren’t elite and they played an elite team today.

Hopefully I won’t have to eat my words on Sunday but I think that this FSU team would be the best team in the nation even if everyone was playing. This team is loaded but it remains to be seen if they can finish things off in the Final.

Congratulations to ACC Defensive Player of the Year Malia Berkely, ACC Midfielder of the Year Jaelin Howell and ACC Coach of the Year Mark Krikorian.

Next Game

Florida State will play for the ACC Championship on Sunday against North Carolina. The Tar Heels knocked off Virginia in the second semifinal 2-0. The game will kick off at noon and will be broadcast on ESPNU.