No. 1 Florida State (5-0-0) defeated Florida (0-4-1) by a 5-2 score tonight at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
Florida was a prohibitive underdog in this game but the Gators broke the ice early. In the 10th minute Nicole Vernis tracked down a loose ball in the midfield. Vernis took a touch and then sent the ball down the left flank so that Alivia Gonzalez could run onto it. Gonzalez was immediately challenged by FSU defender Kirsten Pavlisko. However Gonzalez was able to poke the ball away from Pavlisko and she eventually delivered a dangerous left footed cross into the box. Kit Loferski slipped by Lauren Flynn and knocked the cross past Seminole keeper Cristina Roque to give UF the 1-0 lead.
However, it would not take long for the Seminoles to answer. In the 11th minute Jenna Nighswonger found Yujie Zhao with her back to the goal a couple of yards outside the box. Zhao one-timed a pass to the sprinting Jody Brown. Syd Kennedy was there to challenge Brown but Jody used her speed and a great first touch to get by her and Kennedy resorted to grabbing Brown’s right arm. Brown went down in the box and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Jaelin Howell stepped up to take it and Howell made no mistake firing the ball to the left past UF keeper Alexa Goldberg who was leaning the wrong way. Florida State had tied the score at 1-1.
In the 14th minute the Seminoles kept it going. The Noles used their possession to move the ball into the Gator third of the field. Florida attempted to clear the ball but Zhao kept it in. Zhao took a couple of touches before chipping a ball to the edge of the six. Olsson was there and somehow used a modified bicycle kick to send the ball into the back of the net past her old teammate Goldberg and the Seminoles found themselves with a 2-1 lead.
In the 22nd minute FSU tried to strike again. Pavlisko received the ball on the right side. She spotted an open Nighswonger right above Florida’s backline. Nighswonger took a touch and sent the ball into the path of a streaking Brown who was running past Kennedy on the right side. Brown caught up to the ball and turned the corner on Kennedy. Brown then delivered a very dangerous cross right above the six. Kristina Lynch stuck out a foot for a shot. Anna DeLeon came in at the same time and forced Lynch to knock the ball out of bounds with an excellent defensive effort.
In the 30th minute the Noles increased the lead. Off of a quick restart Clara Robbins, who didn’t start for the first time this year, wove her way through the Gator defense to eventually deliver a perfectly placed left footed strike to give the Seminoles a 3-1 lead.
In the 42nd minute the Noles generated another opportunity. Gabby Carle kept in an attempted UF clearance. She sent a searching ball into the box. Maria Alagoa was there and tried a left footed volley that went just wide right of the goal.
In the 49th minute FSU stretched the lead again. Florida State earned a corner kick. Nighswonger stepped up to take it. She sent the ball to the near post. Emily Madril was there to flick it on into the six. The ball bounced in the box like a pinball bouncing off of several players until Olsson knocks it toward goal. DeLeon was there to stop it but the ball trickled past her just enough to get it over the line. Flynn came in to knock it into the back of the net just in case but the goal was already scored and it was credited to Olsson.
In the 51st minute Zhao kept in an attempted Gator clearance. She chipped a beautiful ball into the box. Kristina Lynch snuck past DeLeon and sent a shot straight for goal. However, Goldberg was up to the task responding with an impressive save to send the ball out of bounds safely.
In the 53rd minute FSU used their buildup to create another chance. Pavlisko drove the ball upfield eventually finding Zhao in space. Zhao turned and drove the ball to the edge of the box before laying it off for Nighswonger. Jenna took a touch and fired a left footed shot from about 17 yards out that went just over the goal.
In the 63rd minute Brown was again running at the Gator defense. This time she received a long ball from Howell on the right side. After tracking down the ball Brown used her acceleration to get past DeLeon. She then laid it off for a trailing Howell who was lurking a few yards outside the box. Howell beat a defender and then took a left footed shot. However, Howell’s shot was deflected out of bounds by Georgia Eaton-Collins.
The Gators didn’t give up. In the 64th minute UF generated a chance on the counter attack. Delaney Tauzel took the ball and delivered a long pass up field. Loferski beat a couple of Noles to the ball and raced up the field with Flynn sprinting after her. Loferski took the ball to the edge of the six before crossing it over for Gonzalez but the ball went just behind Gonzalez and FSU was able to take it back.
In the 65th minute Nighswonger drove the ball through the midfield and took an open shot from distance. However, Goldberg was up to the task again to knock the ball over the crossbar.
In the 73rd minute the Seminoles generated yet another opportunity. Emma Bissell drove the ball down the right flank eventually crossing the ball to the top of the six. The ball got past everyone as Shaye Seyffart whiffed on the clearance. Heather Payne pounced on it and delivered a hard right footed shot that Goldberg impressively saved with a dive to her right.
In the 77th minute LeiLanni Nesbeth received the ball, turned and drove into the box. She was taken down from behind by Madison Young who earned a yellow card for her efforts. The referee awarded the penalty kick and Robbins stepped up to take it. Robbins delivered a rifle shot to the left side of the goal and Goldberg had no chance. The Seminoles had earned a commanding 5-1 lead.
However, to their credit the Gators refused to quit. In the 90th minute UF earned a corner kick. Laney Steed ran over to take the corner. Steed sent a dangerous cross into the FSU box. The ball bounced in the mixer before being ejected right to Seyffart who sent a wicked left footed volley into the back of the net to cut the lead to 5-2.
From there FSU salted the last few seconds away and walked off with a hard earned 5-2 victory.
FSU outshot UF 23-2. FSU had 11 shots on goal while UF had two. As usual the Seminoles dominated possession 78% to 22%.
This was FSU’s fourth straight win over UF which is the longest FSU win streak in the series. The Seminoles now lead the all-time series with the Gators 14-13.
FSU was clearly the better team. Florida State has yet to lose (or be tied) this year while Florida has yet to win this year. This game reflected that disparity as the statistics above show.
However, Florida did score twice against the Noles and that will be cause for concern for the FSU coaches.
FSU played three in the back for the entire game. This is the first time that I can remember Coach Mark Krikorian playing three in the back for an entire game. He has done it previously for stretches or for halves but not for the entire game. Doing so means that of course there are fewer defenders and that could be risky but the benefit is that FSU can add another midfielder (usually Gabby Carle) and that helps the Noles dominate the midfield which is critical to get the possession game going.
This Florida State team seems worthy of the number one ranking. There are difference makers all over the field and it is tough for opponents because the Noles have so many players capable of hurting the opposing team.
This team has many strengths. FSU’s possession style gives teams fits and is tough to prepare for as not many teams nationally use it and perhaps none do it as well as Florida State. FSU is one of the deepest teams in the nation. The Noles are also extremely versatile as a number of players have played different positions.
Individually I could talk about more than a dozen players (again this team is deep) but I will restrain myself for the sake of time and touch on only a couple. With her speed Jody Brown gives the Seminoles a dimension that they haven’t had since Cheyna Williams. If an opponent decides not to bunker Brown has proven that she is capable of terrorizing left backs. It’s not just her speed it’s also her acceleration. She uses her speed to catch up to the ball and uses her acceleration to turn and beat defenders. She will be a serious threat all season.
Speaking of serious threats Beata Olsson has been a revelation in Garnet and Gold. Olsson is an extremely dangerous striker. Not only does she have a nose for the goal but she has the ability to score in many different ways as evidenced tonight by her half bicycle kick. Goal scoring has been an issue recently for the Noles but with strikers like this the Seminoles may have found the answer.
Of course there are many other players that we could focus on (and we will as the season goes on) but those two have been particularly impressive of late.
However, this is not a perfect team. There are some concerns.
- FSU may be vulnerable to counters as the Noles employ such a high back line and the defenders are so aggressive.
- FSU’s backline could possibly be a concern against other elite teams. I’m actually not sure of this because the defense hasn’t had to face much pressure yet this year but it is something to watch.
- Another thing to watch for is set-piece defense. Long time Nole fans will remember that FSU has struggled with this in the past. It’s hard to evaluate just where Florida State is with this right now as the Seminoles haven’t faced many set-pieces this year. Florida’s last goal does not inspire confidence however.
- Lastly, FSU has not exactly faced a murderer’s row since the Texas A&M game. It will be interesting to see how this team responds when the schedule toughens up a bit later in the year.
Overall though there is no doubt that the Seminoles are dripping with talent. However, I don’t think that this team will go undefeated because the ACC is the best conference in the nation and it is hard to summon your best game every night. But if any team could do it this is the team. Will it be the year?
FSU travels to Fort Myers on Thursday, September 9th to face Florida Gulf Coast. The game will kickoff at 7pm.