No. 1 Florida State (21-1-3) defeated No. 13 BYU (17-4-3) in penalty kicks (4-3) after regulation and two overtime periods ended in a 0-0 draw. The Seminoles have now won their third championship in program history.
Florida State generated the first dangerous chance of the game. In the fourth minute Laveni Vaka delivered an errant pass that was intercepted by Jenna Nighswonger just outside BYU’s box. Nighswonger took a touch and unleashed a left footed blast but it went just over the crossbar.
In the eighth minute the Cougars almost broke the scoring ice. Mikayla Colohan received the ball back from a give and go. She one-timed a gorgeous left footed pass right in the path of Cameron Tucker who had split a pair of FSU defenders. Tucker received the ball and slotted a shot past FSU keeper Cristina Roque into the back of the net. Howver, Tucker was immediately called offside by the assistant referee. It was a tight call but it did seem that Tucker was just barely offside.
In the 30th minute BYU generated another chance. Olivia Wade drove the ball down the left side. Rachel McCarthy made a run into the box. Wade delivered a perfect pass to McCarthy who received it and made a touch in the box. But Emily Madril came from behind with a gorgeous sliding tackle to dispossess McCarthy and end the threat.
In the 69th minute Florida State earned another chance. Nighswonger kept in an attempted Cougar clearance. She spotted Jody Brown hovering just outside the box. Brown received the ball and beat Grace Johnson at the edge of the box. Brown then used her speed to get around Vaka before lifting a left footed shot toward goal. Unfortunately Brown didn’t have the angle and her shot went into the side netting.
In the 80th minute BYU had another opportunity. Olivia Smith got by Nighswonger and drove to FSU’s box. Smith found McCarthy who was posting up in the box. McCarthy tried to one-time the ball over to an open Colohan but she didn’t hit it cleanly and the ball popped up behind her. However, the ball luckily bounced right into the path of Jamie Shepherd who was charging up from her midfield position. Shepherd one-timed a right footed drive for goal but it sailed barely over the crossbar.
In the 84th minute Kendell Petersen was bringing the ball up through the midfield. Jaelin Howell sized her up and then barreled into her with a very physical shoulder challenge. Howell was called for the foul but she was extremely lucky to get away without being booked. Howell had already been assessed a yellow card in the game so if she would have been booked for this play she would have been shown red and sent off. The referee didn’t assess the card however. There is no question that if Howell hadn’t already been in the book she would have seen yellow on this play. Referees are reluctant to send players off with a second yellow. It has to be really blatant. This would have been blatant enough for many referees. FSU was really lucky that Howell was allowed to remain in the game.
In the 89th minute FSU earned a corner kick. Yujie Zhao stepped up to take it. Zhao sent a dangerous ball into the box. Vaka won the header but her header went backward toward the goal. BYU keeper Cassidy Smith went up to knock the ball away but it hit off the crossbar and caromed back onto the field. Brown pounced on it and tried to knock it in but her shot was blocked when the ball ricocheted up and hit Johnson in the face. The Cougars were able to clear.
Neither team was able to break the ice in regulation so the game went into overtime.
In the 99th minute Gabby Carle received the ball deep on the left flank off of a throw-in. Carle battled a pair of defenders and eventually recovered the ball just inside the box. Carle was going for goal when she was taken down by Olivia Smith in the box. The referee did not give the foul and play continued. This was a close call and really could have gone either way. There was contact from Smith but Carle did go down a bit easily. Referees usually don’t like to give penalties unless it is crystal clear that a foul has occurred. This one was borderline. It was nowhere near as egregious as the missed call last spring in the championship game against Santa Clara when Clara Robbins was obviously taken down in the box and no call was given.
Neither team could score after that and the game went to penalty kicks.
Therefore, FSU won on penalty kicks 4-3.
Yujie Zhao was named the Offensive Most Outstanding player of the College Cup.
Cristina Roque was named the Defensive Most Outstanding player of the College Cup.
BYU played well but Florida State is a deserving winner. The Seminoles were mostly able to play the game at their tempo and had the majority of the possession. This allowed the Noles to apply the majority of the pressure especially late in the game.
FSU really displayed the depth of the team in this game. A pair of starters from the semi-final game (LeiLanni Nesbeth and Ran Iwai) didn’t even play in this game yet the Seminoles were the fresher team down the stretch.
Florida State has now won its third title in the last eight years and has made the College Cup five times in that time period. The dynasty discussion is fair to have now. This is the best program in the nation right now.
We will have more on this Championship at Tomahawk Nation and I will have an article in the coming days to reflect on the season.
For now though, congratulations to the National Champion Florida State Seminoles!