No. 1 Florida State (17-1-2) beat South Alabama (12-5-3) by a 3-0 score tonight at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
Florida State got off to a quick start in this game. In the fourth minute the Seminoles earned a corner kick. LeiLanni Nesbeth stepped up to take the corner. Nesbeth served a dangerous ball to the edge of the six yard box. Beata Olsson got up for the header. However, USA keeper Jaidy Campos was perfectly placed to catch Olsson’s header.
In the eighth minute Emily Madril found Kirsten Pavlisko on the right side. Pavlisko one-timed a pass for Jody Brown who was slashing into the box. Brown laid the ball off for Maria Alagoa who was charging through the box. Alagoa one-timed a right footed shot but her shot was deflected out of bounds by defender Abby Jacobs.
In the 19th minute the Seminoles earned another chance. Gabby Carle spotted Alagoa streaking down the left flank. Alagoa battled with Gabrielle Gayle for the ball. Alagoa eventually came up with the ball and drove into the box. Alagoa then sent a dangerous ball through the box for Brown who was wide open. Brown took a touch then rifled a shot to goal but it was blocked by a hustling Nora Sanchez.
FSU finally broke the ice in the 24th minute. Jaelin Howell received a pass from Nesbeth and drove into the box. Howell weaved through a thicket of Jaguar defenders before sending a left footed cross toward goal. Kate Nicolson attempted to head the ball away but her clearance was kept in by Clara Robbins with a body block. The ball bounced off Robbins’ knee right to Brown who one-timed a left footed strike toward goal. Sanchez slid over and stuck her leg out to knock the ball away but the ball went off her leg into the goal. It could be argued that this was an own goal and some official scorers would have scored it like that but I think that the striker should be given the benefit of the doubt here so I like that Brown was credited with the goal. USA was really unlucky twice on the goal as the ball ricocheted off of Sanchez’s leg into the goal but the Jaguars were also unlucky in that it looked like keeper Campos might have had Brown’s shot covered if Sanchez hadn’t deflected the ball. However, the Noles will take it and they had a 1-0 lead. It was the second goal of the season for Brown and the seventh of her career.
FSU wasn’t done yet. In the In the 27th minute the Noles struck again. Jenna Nighswonger found Alagoa in the middle of the field. Alagoa took a touch and then spotted Yujie Zhao making a run down the left side delivering a perfect pass. Zhao received the ball and one-timed it over to Olsson who was charging down the center of the box. Campos had come off her line to challenge Zhao so all Olsson had to do was poke the ball into the empty net to give the Seminoles an insurance goal. Olsson did well to finish but this was a really unselfish play by Zhao to have her head up and to be able to deliver the sweet pass to Olsson for the finish. It was the 12th goal of the season for Olsson.
In the 33rd minute Florida State generated another chance. Zhao drove the ball through the midfield. She spotted Olsson making a run at the edge of the box. Olsson took a touch before firing for goal but her shot was blocked by Nicolson. However the ball went straight to Nighswonger who one-timed a shot to goal but it went just wide left.
FSU kept the pressure on in the 48th minute. Robbins drove the ball down the right side before finding Olsson who was posting up in the box. Olsson got the ball over to Brown who took a touch before sending over a cross. The cross was blocked but Brown hustled over to collect the rebound. Campos had come over to cut off Brown’s angle but Brown sent in a dangerous pass to Alagoa on the doorstep of the open goal. Alagoa tried to basically block the ball into the goal with her left foot but it bounced centimeters wide right. Alagoa ran back down the field with her hand over her mouth in disbelief that she somehow missed the goal.
In the 54th minute FSU had another chance. Robbins found Pavlisko who had moved up the field from her normal defensive position. Pavlisko took a couple of touches before firing a quick left footed drive to goal that went just wide right.
In the 59th minute Pavlisko found Robbins in USA’s defensive third. Robbins immediately laid it off for Brown who was charging down the right side. Brown battled against Sanchez before crossing the ball for Nesbeth who was wide open in the middle of the box. Nesbeth one-timed a blast for goal that went just barely above the crossbar.
In the 83rd minute the Noles secured the insurance goal. FSU earned a corner. Nighswonger stepped up to take it. Lauren Flynn got up to send a header toward goal. The ball bounced dangerously in the six but Campos got down for an impressive save. However the ball rebounded right to Emily Madril who was unmarked in the box. Madril smashed a right footed one-timer into the back of the net for the final 3-0 margin of victory. It was the third goal of the season for Madril.
From there FSU cruised to the victory and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Florida State had 23 shots to three for South Alabama. The Seminoles had nine shots on goal to only one for the Jaguars.
There are some definite benefits to being a #1 seed. The most important is that you get to play all of your games at home before the College Cup. However, the second most important is that you can kind of ease your way into the Tournament as you don’t have to play any seeded teams in the first couple of rounds. That is what FSU did in this game. The Noles did not play their best game tonight but they generally played well and they definitely played well enough to beat a game but overmatched USA team.
We saw the return of the possession game but it was against a USA side that generally bunkered for most of the game and didn’t challenge FSU much for the ball. That led to the Noles enjoying a huge 74%-26% possession advantage.
Tonight we saw a return to the type of play that we have been used to seeing from the Seminoles. We saw the Beautiful Game tonight but it wasn’t perfect. Coach Mark Krikorian remarked after the game that he thought that his team could have been a bit sharper in front of goal. While that is true the Noles have a bit of time to clean that up before they meet the really formidable teams later in the tournament.
The Seminoles really need to find the level of play that they had in the first six or seven games of the ACC schedule. That was before they hit the toughest stretch of the season and before they lost three players to international duty.
Coach Krikorian remarked on that after the game. “Anytime our kids leave for international duty we are thrilled that they get that type of opportunity... But it does change the dynamics, the playing dynamics, the off the field dynamics of the team and then reintroducing them to the team, bringing them back in and adjusting the team again it’s not so easy and trying to find the right playing time, the right minutes for all of the players it’s a delicate balance.”
If the Noles can find that balance they are definitely talented enough to find themselves in the Winner’s Circle at the end of the Tournament.
Florida State will play the winner of the Texas/SMU game in the second round. FSU will play that second round game on Friday, Nov. 19th at the Seminole Soccer Complex.