No. 4 Florida State (11-2-2, 7-2 ACC) defeated no. 20 Pitt (12-4-1, 5-3-1 ACC) by a 1-0 score this afternoon in Pittsburgh, PA.
Both teams felt each other out early although Florida State enjoyed most of the possession and applied most of the pressure.
However, it was Pitt that generated the first chance. In the 16th minute Jody Brown took down Keera Melenhorst just outside the 18 yard box. Ellie Coffield stepped up to take the free kick. Coffield went straight for goal but her right footed shot sailed just high over the crossbar.
In the 45th minute FSU earned a golden opportunity. Olivia Garcia drove the ball into the attacking third. She laid it off for Kaitlyn Zipay who was open in the middle of the field. Zipay took a couple of touches and then rifled a shot on goal from about 25 yards out. Her shot was blocked but the ricochet ended up at Garcia’s feet and she sent the ball past Pitt keeper Caitlyn Lazzarini for the apparent first goal of the game. However, Garcia was ruled offside on the play and the goal was disallowed.
In the 47th minute the Panthers earned another opportunity. Landy Mertz drove the ball down the right flank against Ran Iwai. Mertz sent a cross into the box that kept drifting toward the goal. The ball eventually clanged off the crossbar before bouncing harmlessly away.
Pitt kept the pressure on in the 53rd minute. The Panthers earned a free kick from distance close to the sideline. Ashton Gordon sent a searching ball into the box. The ball was headed by several players before dropping for Samiah Phiri in the box. Phiri took a shot from the edge of the six but Mia Justus came up with an incredible kick save to knock the ball away and preserve her clean sheet.
In the 67th minute the Noles broke the scoring ice. LeiLanni Nesbeth kept in an attempted Panther clearance. She controlled the ball brilliantly and then blasted a right footed wonder strike half volley from about 18 yards away that hit the inside of the left post before rebounding into the back of the net. This was a simply amazing goal from Nesbeth and the Noles really needed it.
In the 88th minute Pitt had the last good chance of the game. Keera Melenhorst corralled a deflected ball. Melenhorst drove toward the goal and Nesbeth came up to meet her. Nesbeth challenged Melenhorst with a slide tackle and knocked the ball away. However, the whistle sounded and Nesbeth was called for the foul. The Seminoles protested vociferously but to no avail. It looked like a clean tackle from my vantage point as it seemed that Nesbeth got the ball. However, the ref blew his whistle and awarded the foul. The referee determined originally that the foul occurred just outside the box. There was a video review (just to determine where the foul occurred not to review whether it was a foul at all) and the call on the field stood. The ball was placed just outside the box for the free kick. Ellie Coffield stepped up to take the kick for the Panthers and her shot hit the crossbar and skidded over it.
From there the Seminoles were able to salt the game away and leave Pittsburgh with a very important 1-0 victory.
Florida State had 14 shots to 13 for Pitt. The shots on goal were tied at four each.
FSU won the possession battle 56% to 44%.
FSU now leads the all-time series against Pitt 10-0-0.
Mia Justus had an excellent game today. She was a commanding presence in the box and of course she had that remarkable kick save which was obviously key to today’s victory.
Passing was not precise in this game for the Seminoles. The inconsistent passing was the primary reason that the Noles couldn’t generate much offense through the midfield. While the Seminoles were able to sustain offensive pressure on Pitt at times in the game the build-up was often disrupted due to the somewhat erratic passing.
This was a huge win for Florida State. Pitt was ranked 10th in the RPI before the game so getting another top 10 RPI win is great for FSU’s resume. However, an even more important reason why this victory is big is that it puts the Noles in an even better position to earn a top two seed in the ACC Tournament. The top two seeds will be awarded a bye in the tournament and FSU would love to get the bye.
The bottom line is that while this definitely wasn’t the best performance that we have seen from the Seminoles it was a win on the road against a ranked squad. They got the crucial three points after a heartbreaking loss and seem poised to earn that important bye.
Florida State will welcome Virginia Tech to the Seminole Soccer Complex on Thursday. The game will kickoff at 7pm and will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.