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No.2 FSU soccer handles No. 1 North Carolina to win the ACC Championship

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The Seminoles complete a perfect season.

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

No. 2 Florida State (11-0) defeated No. 1 North Carolina (11-1) today by a 3-2 score to win the ACC Championship in Cary, NC.

Game Recap

The Seminoles wasted no time putting their imprint on this game. In the first minute LeiLanni Nesbeth pounced on a loose ball and released Kristina Lynch down the left flank. Lynch caught up with the ball and tried to put a move on Julia Dorsey but couldn’t get past her. Dorsey knocked the ball out for a corner kick. Nesbeth stepped up to take the corner. She sent a wicked curving ball into the six. Lynch got up to get her head on it and the ball glanced off her head (I think) to the back of Kristen McFarland’s head and finally Clara Robbins was there to head the ball into the back of the net.

The Noles didn’t rest on their laurels. In the sixth minute Gabby Carle picked out Nesbeth in the midfield. Nesbeth drove the ball into Carolina’s defensive third before laying it off for Robbins. Robbins took a touch and then uncorked a rocket from about 20 yards out. Her shot hit the inside of the right post and bounced into the back of the net. The ball was struck hard but it was also perfectly placed so UNC keeper Claudia Dickey had no chance and FSU was up 2-0 early in the game. It was the 5th goal of the year for Robbins.

To their credit, the Heels kept competing. In the 11th minute Kaitlyn Zipay was called for a foul battling for the ball in the midfield. Maycee Bell took the free kick for UNC. Bell sent a long ball that went over everyone’s head and bounced in FSU’s box untouched about 12 yards from goal. FSU keeper Cristina Roque misjudged the ball and it bounced over her head but fortunately for Florida State it bounced out of bounds instead of going into the open goal. It missed the left post by inches.

In the 13th minute the Tar Heels generated another chance. Dickey unleashed an extremely long punt that went over everyone’s head. The two number 11s for both teams, Emily Fox and Kirsten Pavlisko raced after the ball. Pavlisko managed to get a step on Fox shielding her from the ball allowing Roque to come up and clear it away. However, Roque mishit the ball and it went over the endline for a Carolina corner. Taylor Otto stepped up to take the corner for the Heels. She drove the ball into the six. Isabel Cox came out of nowhere leap up for the header but her shot went over the goal. In the process Cox clattered into Emily Madril and hit the post herself. Cox was slow to get up but she was okay.

In the 22nd minute UNC earned another corner. Otto again stepped up to take it. She sent it to the far side of the six yard box. Cox was there to head it back toward the goal. Brianna Pinto managed to get her foot on it to send it to the goal but Robbins was there to save it off the line and keep the shutout intact.

In the 44th minute the Noles came excruciatingly close to a 3-0 lead. Carle released Ran Iwai with a ball down the left flank. Iwai took a touch and then sent a slicing ball into the Carolina box. Jody Brown was being marked by Abby Allen as they raced for the ball but neither player could catch up to it. Somehow the ball also got by UNC keeper Dickey as it cut through the six. Lauren Flynn ran onto it and stuck her foot out but she just missed the ball as it continued to roll on and eventually hit the right post bouncing out. Maggie Pierce cleared it away.

However, the Noles would eventually secure that 3-0 lead. In the 47th minute Nesbeth kept the ball in after an attempted UNC clearance. She played give and go with Robbins in the box. Nesbeth received the ball back from Robbins and powered her way through the Carolina defense. She then found herself almost at the endline but she managed to toe poke the ball past Dickey even with the tough angle to give FSU a 3-0 lead. It was the 5th goal of the season for Nesbeth.

In the 59th minute North Carolina finally got on the board. The Heels earned another corner. Otto sent the ball into the box. Bell got up for a header. Roque ran up to get it but Pinto headed it away before she could get there. Jaelin Howell then headed it away. Rachel Jones got her foot on it to keep it in the box. Kristina Lynch ran over to play the ball but as she leapt in the air her elbow came out and hit the ball. The whistle sounded immediately and the referee pointed to the spot for a handball in the box. It was an unlucky play but it was the correct call. Rachel Jones took the penalty kick and sent it into the left corner past Roque to cut the FSU lead to 3-1.

In the 61st minute the Heels kept up the pressure. Talia Dellaperuta drove the ball through the midfield. She eventually found Julia Dorsey streaking down the right flank. Dorsey delivered a dangerous cross into the box. Rachel Jones got up for the header leaping over Pavlisko but Roque was there to make an impressive save batting the ball away from the goal and then scampering over to pick it up to end the threat.

Time was starting to run out on the Tar Heels but they didn’t quit. In the 89th minute they crept closer. Bell headed the ball forward from the midfield. Emily Fox collected it for UNC. Fox back heeled the ball to Cox who then back heeled it back to Fox in a nifty give and go. Fox then played the ball forward for Otto on the left wing. Otto caught up to the ball and delivered a perfect cross to Pinto who was unmarked in the FSU box. Pinto headed the ball into the back of the net to pull the Heels within one at 3-2. Pinto may have been unmarked because the entire Seminole defense was calling for the assistant referee to declare Otto offside. However, the flag stayed down and the Tar Heels were awarded the goal.

FSU was able to hold on for the last minute and the Seminoles walked away with a well earned ACC Championship.

Post Game

This was the seventh ACC title for Florida State. It is the second in the last three years for the Seminoles.

Clara Robbins was named the tournament MVP. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by Jaelin Howell, Jenna Nighswonger, Malia Berkely, and Cristina Roque from FSU.

FSU had nine shots (six on goal) while UNC had eight shots (five on goal).

Florida State dominated the midfield in the first half. The Noles had 71% of the possession in the first half and that midfield domination kept UNC from getting any rhythm.

FSU has had issues with slow starts this season but that obviously wasn’t a problem today. The two quick goals seemed to rattle the Heels but to their credit they kept battling and they did manage to make it interesting in the end.

Everyone in the nation didn’t play this fall but make no mistake about it, these would be two of the best teams in the nation even if everyone was playing (maybe the best two). This was a heavyweight matchup and Florida State had just enough quality to come out on top.

Next Game

The Seminoles have now completed a perfect fall season but now the focus will turn to the spring. The NCAA plans to hold a spring season that would finish with a 48 team NCAA Tournament in May. However, we will have to see what Covid-19 has to say about that plan.

If there is a spring season it will be interesting to see which players will be available to play in it. UNC coach Anson Dorrance announced that Emily Fox and Taylor Otto will leave North Carolina to start their professional careers so they will not be available in the spring. As of now Florida State expects to have all of their players back if there is a spring season but there are no guarantees as this remains a fluid situation.

Thanks for following along with us on this exciting but abbreviated fall season. If there is a spring season we will be here at Tomahawk Nation to chronicle it. I hope that you will join us. Until then let’s congratulate the 2020 ACC Champions the Florida State Seminoles!