No. 2 Florida State (16-1-2) defeated No. 1 Virginia (16-2-2) by a 1-0 score today to win the ACC Championship at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC.
Virginia started the game strong. In the fourth minute Lizzy Sieracki sent a ball into the box for Haley Hopkins who was being marked by Lauren Flynn. Hopkins just barely missed getting her foot on the ball to redirect it toward goal.
In the ninth minute UVA generated another chance. The Hoos took the ball away from FSU in midfield. Lia Godfrey found Hopkins wide open on the right side. Hopkins drove into the box and unleashed a left-footed strike that clanged off the left post.
In the 10th minute Florida State broke the scoring ice. Clara Robbins stole a Laney Rouse throw-in. Robbins battled with Sydney Zandi for the ball. Robbins eventually got control and fired a right footed shot for goal as she was falling down. Her wonderstrike from about 30 yards out sailed over UVA keeper Laurel Ivory’s head and into the back of the net. After the game Ivory took full responsibility for the goal but in reality there was little fault that can be assigned to Ivory for the goal. Ivory was a few steps off her line but how often do you see that kind of shot from such a long distance while the striker is being marked and is falling down. All credit has to go to Robbins for that perfectly placed shot.
In the 16th minute the Cavs had another chance. FSU was possessing in the back but Godfrey dispossessed Flynn. Godfrey drove the ball to the outside of the box on the right side before sending in a cross. Alexa Spaanstra came in for the shot but her effort went high and wide.
In the 69th minute FSU earned a chance. Yujie Zhao received the ball in the midfield. Zhao took a couple of touches before spotting Beata Olsson splitting a pair of defenders. Zhao slipped a pretty ball to Olsson who received it at the edge of the box. Olsson fired a right footed rocket but Ivory dove to her right and came up with a big time save.
In the 73rd minute FSU kept up the pressure. Jody Brown stole the ball in FSU’s defensive third. Brown immediately dashed up the field on the counter attack. Brown had acres of space in front of her. Brown eventually found Jenna Nighswonger on the right side. Nighswonger took a couple of touches before sending a left-footed effort toward goal but Ivory was in the perfect spot to catch the ball for the save.
In the 79th minute Virginia had a free kick when the referee called a foul on Gianna Mitchell who tackled Talia Staude from behind. Staude took the free kick and sent an extremely dangerous ball into the box. Diana Ordonez got her boot on it but her shot went just wide left.
In the 80th minute UVA had another opportunity. Zandi battled a pair of FSU defenders before managing to find Brianna Jablonowski in the box. Jablonowski immediately passed it back for Taryn Torres who was lurking just outside the box. Torres unleashed a hard drive from about 20 yards out but Roque dived to her left to make a sparkling save.
In the 88th minute FSU almost secured an insurance goal. Jaelin Howell cleared the ball off of FSU’s endline. The ball went about a mile in the air. Olsson and Torres tried to track the ball in the air. The ball bounced in front of both players but Olsson reacted to it better and she was able to knee the ball forward outracing Torres. Staude came over and she was the last line of defense between Olsson and Ivory in goal. Olsson got past Staude but Staude was able to slide down and just barely get her foot on the ball to knock it away from behind. In so doing she tripped up Olsson but the referee kept his whistle in his pocket.
Later in the 88th minute Virginia had one last chance. Sieracki served the ball into the box. Ordonez managed to free herself from the defense and she received the ball and turned and fired a blast from six yards out. Roque came up HUGE making herself big and stoning Ordonez blocking the shot with her left side.
From there the Seminoles were able to salt the game away and walk away with a hard earned victory and their eighth ACC Tournament title.
Virginia outshot Florida State 11-8. However, both teams had three shots on goal.
For the first time all year Florida State lost the possession battle as Virginia had 53% of the possession to 47% for the Seminoles.
FSU has now won the ACC Tournament eight times in the last eleven seasons.
Clara Robbins was named the MVP of the ACC Tournament.
Florida State played defensively after the goal from Robbins. FSU sat back and absorbed Virginia’s pressure while trying to counter attack when there were opportunities. This was the first time this year that we have seen the Seminoles play so conservatively. This strategy worked due to the great effort that the backline was able to summon against an onslaught of pressure from Virginia.
Laurel Ivory and Diana Ordonez confirmed after the game that they didn’t expect the Seminoles to sit back the way that they did after the goal.
Cristina Roque was fantastic in this game. Of course she had three big saves but that doesn’t tell the whole story. She was also great at orchestrating things in the back while the defense faced an onslaught of pressure for most of the game.
This game was played during a strong wind. Florida State played against the wind in the first half and Virginia played against the wind in the second half.
These two teams have been the nation’s best this year. They have definitely been the most consistent considering the competition. FSU had some speed bumps in the last three games of the year but the Noles haven’t lost (or been tied) this year when the full team has been available. The only bad game that the Seminoles have played all year was against Duke. For their part the Cavaliers have been just as consistent. They had a bad game early in the year losing 4-2 to Penn State but aside from that they have been very solid all year. It would not be surprising at all to see these two teams match up for a third time in the College Cup.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be tomorrow at 4:30pm. It will be streamed live on NCAA.com. FSU will almost certainly be the top overall seed in the tournament with this win. The other three top seeds are a bit in flux as Arkansas lost today 3-0 in the SEC Final and Rutgers lost 1-0 in the Big10 tournament to Michigan.
Stay tuned to Tomahawk Nation as we cover the Seminoles in the NCAA Tournament as they try to secure their third national championship in program history.