No. 4 Florida State (10-2-2, 6-2 ACC) fell to no. 2 North Carolina (13-3, 6-2 ACC) by a 2-1 score tonight at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
Florida State started the game on the front foot. In the fifth minute the Noles broke the scoring ice. Jody Brown received the ball in midfield and drove into the attacking third. Brown drew three defenders to her before finding Jenna Nighswonger open in the middle of the field. Nighswonger quickly spotted Onyi Echegini making a run through the defense. Nighswonger slotted a great ball to Echegini who cut past Emily Moxley to get the ball. Moxley grabbed Echegini’s arm but the Seminole striker had enough strength to receive the ball and send it between Emmie Allen’s legs for the first goal of the game.
In the 22nd minute FSU kept attacking. The Seminoles earned a free kick when Nighswonger was taken down by Maggie Pierce. Nighswonger took the kick from about 28 yards out. She drove a low hard shot that went just wide right.
In the 28th minute the Noles generated another chance. FSU earned a corner kick. Nighswonger stepped up to take it. Nighswonger sent a dangerous ball into the six. Echegini got up to get her head on it but her header sailed over the crossbar.
In the 32nd minute the Tar Heels found the equalizer. Ally Sentnor ran onto a beautiful long ball from Sam Meza. Sentnor attacked the Nole defense and unleashed a cracker toward goal. The ball was blocked but unfortunately for Florida State the ball hit Lauren Flynn in the forearm. The whistle sounded and UNC was awarded a penalty kick. Tori Hansen stepped up to take the penalty and she made no mistake sending the ball past Cristina Roque to tie the game at 1-1.
In the 36th minute the Seminoles earned another chance. Nighswonger looked up to find Echegini about to make her run. Nighswonger lofted a gorgeous ball that Echegini ran onto in the box. Echegini one timed a hard low shot but Allen was there to make an impressive save.
In he 50th minute Florida State generated another chance. Clara Robbins received a throw-in and sent a square ball over to Nighswonger who was open in the middle of the field. Nighswonger cracked a rocket from about 20 yards out but the ball went just wide right.
In the 56th minute FSU kept up the pressure. Libby Moore sent a back pass for Allen in goal. Beata Olsson charged after the ball. Rather than immediately clearing it Allen took a couple of touches. Olsson sliced in and knocked the ball away from Allen. Olsson had an open goal but her shot clanged off the right post and was cleared away by Emerson Elgin.
In the 59th minute Carolina secured the second goal. Sentnor hustled after a ball in the midfield. Sentnor ran at the Seminole defense with no support. She crossed through the box and unleashed a left footed strike that was perfectly placed in the upper 90 to get past Roque in goal to give the Heels the 2-1 advantage. It was a fantastic individual effort from Sentnor.
UNC had another chance in the 63rd minute. Sam Meza attacked FSU’s defense from the midfield. She took a shot from distance but her shot hit the crossbar before being cleared by FSU.
In the 65th minute Florida State earned another chance. Flynn drove the ball upfield before finding Nighswonger on the right side. Heather Payne made an overlapping run and Nighswonger laid the ball off to her on the right flank. Payne sent a dangerous cross into the box. Olsson snapped off a header but Allen did a great job to get down to her left for the save.
In the 85th minute the Noles had their last good chance to tie the game. Florida State almost earned a penalty kick when Echegini was body blocked to the ground by Elgin. Echegini was making a run in the box but she didn’t get the call presumably because the referee felt that the ball had just barely gotten away from her before the contact. This was a tough decision. Elgin made absolutely no play on the ball and just body blocked Echegini to the ground. The ball did seem to be a bit away from Echegini when the contact was made. However, the harshness of the contact combined with the fact that it was a straight block with no play made on the ball would have drawn a whistle from a lot of referees. It didn’t draw one from this referee though.
However, FSU earned a free kick later in the 85th minute after Olsson was taken down just outside the box. Nighswonger took the kick and sent a bending ball into the box. Echegini snapped off a header that went just a bit wide left.
From there the Heels were able to deny the Noles any further chances and they walked away with a huge 2-1 victory.
Florida State had 17 shots to 12 for North Carolina. However UNC led in shots on goal 8-4. FSU won the possession battle 60% to 40%.
This was the first game that Cristina Roque has ever lost in Garnet and Gold.
This will be a tough pill to swallow for the Noles. FSU had more chances than UNC but were unlucky with the hand ball (correct call), Olsson’s shot that hit the post after the steal from the keeper and the no call on the take down of Echegini in the box.
Overall it was well played game and the Tar Heels do deserve credit for taking their chances well. Ally Sentnor’s goal in particular was outstanding.
FSU really just needed a tie to put themselves in great position for a regular season ACC title. Now everything is up in the air. After tonight’s action Notre Dame. North Carolina and Florida State are all tied in first place at 18 points each. UNC’s last two games are at Miami and at Louisville. ND has a game at Wake Forest and a home date with Duke. FSU finishes up at Pitt and home to Virginia Tech. UNC would seem to have the easiest path but their games are on the road. ND probably has the toughest remaining slate but FSU has to go to Pittsburgh and that is no cakewalk.
Other than bragging rights, the regular season title isn’t that crucial. The Noles would like to finish in the top two however to earn the bye in the ACC Tournament. A top two finish would also help in the quest to get a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Florida State will travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday to face the no. 20 Panthers. The game will kick off at 1pm and will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.