No. 3 Florida State (9-0-2) defeated No. 2 Virginia (10-2-1) by a 1-0 score this evening in Charlottesville, VA.
Florida State got off to a dream start. In the first minute Heather Gilchrist played the ball out of the back. Clara Robbins immediately flicked the ball forward and Beata Olsson pounced on it. Olsson turned and found Jenna Nighswonger in the middle of the field. Nighswonger tried to slip a pass to Onyi Echegini on the left flank but the ball was deflected by Talia Staude. However, fortunately for FSU the ball caromed directly into the path of Jody Brown who was open in the middle of the box. Brown took a touch and then sent a perfectly placed ball into the upper 90 for the goal.
Virginia came back strong after conceding early. In the fifth minute Lia Godfrey received the ball in the midfield. She turned and found Alexa Spaanstra open on the left flank. Spaanstra crossed the ball into the box and Haley Hopkins charged in for the header but her shot went over the crossbar.
In the 15th minute Godfrey intercepted a pass and immediately fed Hopkins just outside the box. Hopkins executed a backpass for Spaanstra who was slicing into the box. Spaanstra sent a left footed shot for goal but Cristina Roque was there for the save (get ready to read that a few more times in this recap).
In the 37th minute Samar Guidry passed the ball to Maggie Cagle in the midfield. Cagle promptly slid a pass to Hopkins who was charging forward. Hopkins cut inside and she sent a right footed shot for the lower right corner of the goal but Roque was there for the diving save.
In the 42nd minute UVA kept up the pressure. Godfrey moved the ball over to Guidry on the left wing. Guidry sent a dangerous ball into the box. Hopkins shed her defender and got up for the header but it went just wide right.
In the 53rd minute the Cavaliers generated another chance. Spaanstra crossed the ball into the box but no one was home. Laney Rouse chased the ball down on the other side of the box. Rouse drove to the endline before sending a pass back for Hopkins who was lurking right outside the six yard box. Hopkins headed the ball right for the goal but Roque made a spectacular save to keep her clean sheet.
In the 59th minute Florida State finally generated a chance. Nighswonger passed the ball up for Clara Robbins in the midfield. Robbins eventually got the ball to Brown who ran at the defense. Brown then slipped a pass for Olsson who had gotten behind the defender. Olsson drove a hard shot for goal but UVA keeper Cayla White was there for the save.
In the 83rd minute the Hoos had a golden chance to tie the game. Claire Constant played a brilliant ball over the FSU defense. It bounced into the box where Cagle tried to run onto it. However, Roque charged off her line and blocked Cagle’s attempt. The ball dribbled away but Maya Carter ran up and fired for goal while Roque was on the ground. Carter’s shot was blocked by LeiLanni Nesbeth but the ricochet came right back to Carter. Her next shot for goal was blocked again this time by Lauren Flynn.
From there Florida State salted the game away and walked off with a massive road win.
Virginia outshot Florida State 21 (that’s right) to 6. UVA had 10 shots on goal to FSU’s four.
The Cavaliers dominated possession 63% to 37%.
Cristina Roque kept a clean sheet with a career high 10 saves.
There is obviously a lot to say about this game but you have to start with Cristina Roque or as I call her “The Cheat Code.” I have seen every team in the ACC play at least once and most of them multiple times. There are some really good goal keepers in this league but Roque is the best. She may be the best keeper in the nation. I just can’t say that yet because I haven’t seen enough of the non-ACC teams. Roque is not big for a keeper at 5’7 but she has incredible instincts. She is always in the right place. As a junior with college experience she is pairing those great instincts with very good judgment. We don’t get a chance to discuss goal keeping much at FSU because the Noles usually dominate the game to such an extent that the keeper doesn’t have to do much. However, Roque and Mia Justus are both special. Roque proved her quality tonight. The Cheat Code. Florida State has never lost a game started by Cristina Roque in her three years in Tallahassee.
This game was obviously not a normal game for the Seminoles. Just look at the possession stat. It was obviously the lowest of the year. Also, the 21 shots were the most the Noles have given up all year. The 10 shots on goal were also the most FSU has conceded this year. Florida State changed its tactics at the half. FSU had 48% of the possession at the half. The Noles finished with 37% of the possession. UVA had six shots in the first half and 15 shots in the second half. In the second half the Seminoles decided to sit back and absorb the pressure and then try to beat the Cavs on the counter. The Noles were basically willing to rely on Roque and that strategy worked tonight.
It wasn’t a pretty win. The Seminoles had trouble stringing passes together all night. FSU also didn’t create many chances. UVA had averaged two shots on goal in their last four games but the Cavs earned 10 against FSU tonight. This was not the game that I expected to see tonight by any means.
However, it was a massive victory. FSU was 16th in the RPI before the game. That will obviously improve greatly with this victory. FSU really needed this game to burnish the case for a #1 seed. Of course, a win over the #2 team in the nation on the road will look really good to the committee on Selection Day.
This is also a great way to begin the Gauntlet. FSU will end the season with Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Pitt and Virginia Tech. What do all of those teams have in common? They are all ranked in this week’s coaches poll. There are no more soft touches left on this schedule. However, that is good as these games will be great for the RPI.
In short, this may have been a bit of an ugly win (although the defending was top notch) but you should never apologize for a win and Florida State certainly won’t.
Florida State will travel to South Bend, IN for a date with the #17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday. The game will kickoff at noon and will be broadcast on ESPNU.