No. 1 Florida State (14-0-0, 7-0-0 ACC) defeated Virginia Tech (8-5-2, 2-3-2 ACC) by a 2-0 score today in Blacksburg, VA.
Virginia Tech generated the first quality chance in the game. In the ninth minute Tori Powell came from behind to steal a pass in front of Jaelin Howell. Powell then drove the ball upfield before Howell tracked back to battle her for the ball. Powell eventually got past Howell and Emily Madril came over to cover. Powell toe poked the ball past Madril into the path of Nicole Kozlova who was charging down the left flank. Kozlova one-timed a low, left-footed drive for goal but Seminole keeper Mia Justus came up huge diving to her left to barely get her hand on the ball and knock it away. Lauren Flynn was there to clear the ball away.
In the 29th minute Florida State generated a chance. Amelia Horton sent the ball over to Jenna Nighswonger in the attacking third. Nighswonger took a touch before slipping a dangerous ball to Beata Olsson who was making a run in the box. Olsson beat Victoria Haugen to the ball and then put a move on Hokie keeper Alia Skinner before crossing the ball through the six. The ball completely crossed the open goal. Emma Bissell was there but she was about a foot behind the ball and couldn’t direct it into the open net.
In the 30th minute the Noles scratched the score sheet. FSU doesn’t often score on counter attacks but this was one of the rare times that it worked for the Seminoles. Gabby Carle spotted Yujie Zhao making a run up the field and she sent a ball about 30 yards forward. Zhao tracked the ball and made a nifty back heel touch to slip by Haugen. Zhao got a step on Haugen and raced toward the goal. There was no one between Zhao and the keeper because the Hokies had pushed so many players up in the attack. Allie Lewis raced over to cut Zhao off but Zhao calmly sent the ball over to Olsson who was flying down the middle of the field wide open. Olsson received the ball on the penalty spot where she was 1v1 with the keeper. Skinner came off her line to pressure Olsson but the FSU forward coolly took a touch to get by Skinner before passing the ball into the back of the open goal with her left foot. It was the ninth goal of the year for Olsson and that leads the team.
Zhao ➡ Olsson, 1-0 Noles!— FSU Soccer (@FSUSoccer) October 15, 2021
: RSN pic.twitter.com/bRIDOSkwLj
In the 54th minute Tech generated another opportunity. LeiLanni Nesbeth was called for a foul at midfield. Lewis took the free kick for the Hokies. Lewis sent a gorgeous ball into the box. Lauren Gogal was there and she got her head on it despite being marked by Clara Robbins. Justus came off her line and Gogal was nearly able to head the ball past her into the goal but her shot went just wide. FSU was very lucky on this play. When keepers come off their lines they have to get the ball otherwise they leave the goal wide open which is what happened here. The Seminoles were quite fortunate that they weren’t burned on this play.
In the 58th minute FSU earned a free kick when Nesbeth was fouled by Gogal while she was trying to drive into the box. The referee determined that the foul came just outside the box. Nesbeth took the free kick and delivered a curving ball past the three player Hokie wall looking for the far post. Howell crashed in trying to direct the ball on goal but she couldn’t catch up to it. The referee ruled that Howell touched it last before it went out of bounds and awarded a goal kick to VT. Howell protested vociferously that she didn’t touch it but it was to no avail.
In the 67th minute the Hokies earned another chance. Madril played a back pass back to Justus in goal. Justus cleared the ball but her clearance was intercepted by Emily Gray. Gray immediately sent a shot from about 20 yards out but her shot went just wide right.
In the 70th minute the Noles tacked on an insurance goal. Howell received the ball in midfield. She turned upfield and played give and go with Carle. Howell got the ball back, took a touch and then uncorked a right footed rocket from about 25 yards out that went into the back of the net. This was simply an incredible goal from Howell. Her wonderstrike was her second goal of the season.
Former Hokie Morgan Bowen was the color commentator for the game. She recognized that the shot from Howell was unbelievable but she criticized the Tech defense a bit, “There wasn’t pressure high enough up the field. When (the ball) came into Howell, nobody really tracked her because all she did was take one touch and then let it go. There wasn’t anyone in the vicinity to put some pressure on her. Granted it was a fantastic finish. I don’t think anything could have stopped that but if it was stepped up higher could the defense have gotten a little bit more involved just higher up the field to then try to limit it.” I think Bowen has a point here but this was a bit like trying to check Steph Curry. It is not normal for a guy to make shots as far out as Curry does and it is not normal for a player to be able to fire a shot with such power from such distance like Howell did here. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
The Hokies didn’t quit. In the 90th minute VT kept pushing forward. Holly Weber sent a ball into the FSU box. Kozlova knifed through the box trying to get her foot on the ball. She was met in the box by Howell. Kozlova got a foot on it and sent the ball wide but was immediately after taken down by Howell in the box. Kozlova appealed for a penalty but the referee disagreed. FSU was quite lucky that the referee didn’t point to the spot on this play. Many officials would have.
However, in the end Florida State walked away with a hard fought 2-0 road win.
Florida State had nine shots (two on goal) while Virginia Tech had five shots (one on goal).
FSU is now 20-0-2 all time against Virginia Tech.
This was the first ACC game of the year that FSU has won by less than three goals.
The Hokies actually played quite well in this game. FSU was limited to 66% of the possession (high for anyone else but low by FSU standards) and the Noles only had nine shots. This was the first ACC game this year in which FSU has been held to less than 10 shots.
VT also had their chances to score. Mia Justus was forced to make a sparkling save to deny the first chance and there were a couple of other chances for the Hokies as well as a penalty that very easily could have been given. This was a game that in previous years FSU could have lost or at least been tied but this year it was a rather ho-hum comfortable win.
This game proves that it will not be good enough to play as well as the Seminoles to beat them. Opponents will have to outplay the Noles because FSU has such a talent advantage. Tech played Florida State tough but they weren’t able to significantly outplay FSU and that is what is going to be required for someone to finally take down the Noles.
Now FSU will now embark on the toughest stretch of the regular season schedule. Florida State has passed every test so far with easy A’s. We will see if they have the answers now when the questions will be a bit tougher.
Florida State will head to Chapel Hill, NC to face the No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels (10-1-2, 3-1-2 ACC). The game will kick of on Thursday, Oct. 21st at 8pm. It will be broadcast on the ACC Network.