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No. 4 FSU soccer pounds No. 12 Duke

A second half surge powers the Noles to a win.

Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK

No. 4 Florida State (10-1-2, 6-1 ACC) defeated no. 12 Duke (10-4, 5-2 ACC) by a 5-1 score tonight at the Seminole Soccer Complex.

Game Recap

Duke generated the first dangerous chance of the game. In the 11th minute Michelle Cooper won the ball from Lauren Flynn on the left side of the box. Cooper immediately crossed the ball into the six where Mackenzie Pluck tried to redirect it on goal. However, her shot was deflected out by Ran Iwai.

In the 18th minute Jenna Nighswonger received a pass from Sophia Nguyen in the attacking third. Nighswonger turned and played give and go with Clara Robbins. Nighswonger turned and fired from about 25 yards out but her shot went just high over the crossbar.

In the 23rd minute Florida State broke the ice. Nighswonger received the ball in the midfield. She then chipped a gorgeous ball over the Blue Devil defense. Jody Brown timed her run perfectly using her speed to slice through the defense to receive Nighswonger’s pass. Brown then took a couple of touches before slotting the ball into the bottom left corner past goal keeper Ruthie Jones.

FSU didn’t stop there. In the 24th minute Brown found Onyi Echegini in the middle of the field. Echegini threatened the Duke defense before slotting a pass for Clara Robbins who was charging into the box. Robbins tried to chip the ball over Ruthie Jones’ head but the ball went just wide.

In the 27th minute Duke found the equalizer. LeiLanni Nesbeth was called for fouling Michelle Cooper. Sophie Jones stepped up to take the free kick. Jones sent a searching ball into the box. Nesbeth got her head on it but the ball went straight back toward the goal. It rebounded off the post then bounced in the six. Maggie Graham rushed in and tried to chest the ball into the goal but her effort hit the post again. However, Grace Watkins ran in and toe poked the ball into the back of the net to level the game at one.

FSU took the lead again in the 51st minute. Echegini won an aerial duel to take the ball in the attacking third. Echegini then laid the ball off for Brown who was wide open on the right flank. Brown took a touch and then fired a right footed rocket past Jones for her second goal of the night.

In the 55th minute Nesbeth charged at the Blue Devil defense and she was fouled by Carina Lageyre. Nighswonger stepped up to take the free kick for Florida State. Nighswonger chipped a perfect ball into the box. It was too close for Ruthie Jones to stay on her line and too far away for her to be able to come off it and punch the ball away. Beata Olsson was able to get her head onto it and knock the ball into the goal past Jones who was in no man’s land. FSU had a 3-1 lead.

The Noles weren’t done. In the 63rd minute FSU earned another free kick. Nighswonger again took the kick and sent a dangerous ball into the box. The ball pinged around in the mixer before Olsson got free for a shot. Her shot was blocked but the Devils couldn’t completely clear it. Iwai sent the ball back into the mixer. It eventually bounced out to the edge of the 18 where Nighswonger pounced on it. Jenna blasted a right footed side volley toward goal. Jones got up and made a sparkling save to knock the ball over the crossbar for a corner kick. Nighswonger took the corner and sent the ball to the edge of the six. It bounced around in the mixer before falling for Nesbeth. LeiLanni nailed a left footed shot into the back of the net to give the Noles a 4-1 lead.

The Seminoles had one more goal in them. In the 80th minute Maria Alagoa received the ball at the edge of the attacking third. She took a touch and then sent a beautiful ball into the the box. Olivia Garcia and Beata Olsson had both gotten behind the Duke defense and were unmarked in the box. Garcia got her head on the ball and sent it past Jones for the fifth goal of the game.

From there FSU salted the game away and walked off with a huge 5-1 victory.

Post Game

Florida State outshot Duke 13-12 (6-5 on goal).

The Seminoles also won the possession battle 60% to 40%.

Cristina Roque is now 33-0-8 as a Seminole. That’s right. She has never lost. Cheat Code.

Tonight Clara Robbins played her 100th game as a Seminole. FSU legend.

Heather Payne was on the sidelines but she didn’t play as she is recovering after helping Ireland qualify (in controversial fashion) for the first World Cup in their nation’s history with a win over Scotland on Tuesday.

This was a Paint It Pink game.

It’s really hard to score against Duke. Head coach Robbie Church always has his team organized and they have an experienced group. The last time Duke conceded five goals was in a 5-3 loss to North Carolina on October 28, 2010.

There were legitimate questions raised about Florida State in the wake of the debacle in South Bend. However, the Noles answered those questions in the best possible manner tonight. The game was tight in the first half but FSU simply dominated in the second half.

Jody Brown is really coming into her own. She was always fast but now she is so much more clinical than she was even last year. FSU is really dangerous up top with Brown, Beata Olsson and Onyi Echegini.

Duke is a quality team but styles make fights. The Blue Devils are made to order for a team like FSU. Duke is very organized in the back but they just don’t have the speed or athleticism to consistently mark Florida State’s front line. Offensively, they have a nuclear weapon in ACC goal leader Michelle Cooper but they don’t have very much offensive firepower elsewhere on the roster.

Lauren Flynn took a bit of heat for her performance against Notre Dame’s Olivia Wingate on Sunday. However, Flynn more than redeemed herself with the job she did tonight against a striker in Cooper who is even more dangerous than Wingate. When Cooper can be marked out of the game like she was tonight it is very hard for the Blue Devils to generate consistent offensive production.

This was a huge game because of the way Florida State responded on the field but it was also really big in the standings. FSU is now the sole holder of first place with 18 points in the league. Duke is second with 15. Both teams have three games to play. The top six teams make the ACC Tournament and the top two teams get a bye into the semi-finals. As we have previously discussed, FSU has a short bench with only 20 players on the current roster. The Noles would really enjoy securing that bye and the win tonight was a giant step toward that goal.

Florida State looked like Florida State tonight. This was the first time we have seen that since Jenna Nighswonger knocked heads with Hal Hershfelt in the first half of the Clemson game about two weeks ago. Obviously they don’t have to win every game 5-1 but if the Noles can keep playing Florida State soccer they will have a great chance not only in the ACC Tournament but they will also set themselves up well for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Next Game

Florida State will enjoy a week off before the North Carolina Tar Heels visit the Seminole Soccer Complex on October 20th. The game will kickoff at 8pm and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.