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No. 5 FSU soccer advances over No. 4 Notre Dame to the ACC Tournament Final

The Seminoles survive on penalty kicks.

Jaylynn Nash/ ACC

No. 5 Florida State (12-2-3) drew with No. 4 Notre Dame (14-2-3) by a 3-3 score tonight in Cary, NC. The Seminoles prevailed on penalties 4-2 to advance to the ACC Championship Game.

Game Recap

Florida State took advantage of the first good chance of the game. In the 13th minute Onyi Echegini deflected an attempted clearance by Waniya Hudson. Echegini then hustled over to the left corner to collect the ball and send a beautiful cross into the box. Clara Robbins came out of nowhere to head the ball into the right corner beating Mackenzie Wood to break the scoring ice and give the Noles a 1-0 lead.

Notre Dame wasted no time finding the equalizer. In the 14th minute Korbin Albert collected a loose ball in the midfield. Albert took a couple of touches and then fired an absolute rocket with her right foot past Cristina Roque to level the game at 1-1. It was an unbelievable strike from Albert. It takes a really special effort to beat Roque from distance and Albert really delivered here.

Notre Dame was able to maintain possession for much of the first half. FSU seemed content to allow the Irish to have the ball while looking for counter attack opportunities.

In the 32nd minute Florida State earned a golden opportunity. Heather Payne lofted the ball into the box where Echegini was waiting. Echegini brought the ball down and tried to turn for goal but she was tripped up by Eva Gaetino. The whistle sounded and the Seminoles were awarded a penalty kick.

Heather Payne is FSU’s designated penalty kick taker and she stepped up to take the kick. Payne sent a low hard shot into the lower left corner to give the Seminoles a 2-1 lead.

In the 43rd minute ND earned a second consecutive corner kick. Albert took the kick for the Irish. She sent the ball to edge of the six where it was headed away by LeiLanni Nesbeth. Caroline Gray kept the ball in and sent a shot on goal but Roque was there to knock the ball over the crossbar for the impressive save.

In the 49th minute FSU earned another chance. Robbins received the ball in the midfield and passed it ahead for Beata Olsson who was making a run in the center of the field. Olsson immediately pushed it forward for Echegini who had a step on Eva Gaetino. Wood came off her line to make a big save denying Echegini.

In the 52nd minute Notre Dame generated another chance. Kati Druzina found Albert wide open in the middle of the field. Albert took a touch before laying the ball off for Olivia Wingate on the left flank. Wingate took a touch before firing a low left footed drive that was saved by Roque.

However, the Irish weren’t done by a longshot. In the 57th minute Albert took over the game. Heather Gilchrist tried to clear the ball but Albert intercepted the clearance. Albert battled with Echegini before flicking the ball back to herself and then unleashed a devastating cracker of a shot from about 20 yards out that beat Roque to give ND the equalizer.

However, Albert wasn’t satisfied. In the next minute Albert collected a deflected ball and went to work. She darted through the Seminole defense before getting enough space to fire a left footed shot from about 24 yards away that froze Roque and gave the Irish the 3-2 lead.

However, FSU refused to fold. In the 73rd minute Florida State found the equalizer. Kaitlyn Zipay battled with Caroline Gray for a ball sent in by Clara Robbins. Zipay eventually collected the ball and played it back for Maria Alagoa who was trailing in support. Alagoa one timed a dangerous ball into the box. Wood came off her line to punch the ball away but Olsson beat her to the ball knocking it away from her. Emma Bissell hustled over to knock the ball into the back of the net to level the game at 3 apiece.

In the 74th minute Notre Dame kept up the pressure. Albert was at it again. Albert and Robbins were battling just outside the 18 yard box. Albert managed to earn the slightest of openings but that was all she needed. Albert fired a right footed shot for goal. Roque got up to knock it away and she knocked the ball up where it hit the crossbar and deflected back onto the field where it was cleared by Payne.

The game remained tied after regulation and went into overtime.

In the 105th minute the Noles generated a chance. Olsson charged into the attacking third. She eventually squared the ball over to Jody Brown on the right side. Brown played it back for Jenna Nighswonger at the edge of the box. Nighswonger took a touch and then fired a left footed shot that whizzed inches wide of the left post.

From there neither team could scratch the scoreboard and the game went to penalty kicks.

Ashley Naylor replaced Wood in goal for the Irish for the penalty kick shootout. Cristina Roque remained in goal for FSU.

The penalty kick shootout proceeded as follows:

Shootout attempt by Seminoles Robbins, Clara MISSED [Naylor, Ashley].

Shootout attempt by Fighting Irish Mercado, Maddie MISSED [Roque, Cristina].

Shootout attempt by Seminoles Nesbeth, Leilanni MADE [Naylor, Ashley].

Shootout attempt by Fighting Irish Albert, Korbin MADE [Roque, Cristina].

Shootout attempt by Seminoles Payne, Heather MADE [Naylor, Ashley].

Shootout attempt by Fighting Irish Van Zanten, Kiki MADE [Roque, Cristina].

Shootout attempt by Seminoles Iwai, Ran MADE [Naylor, Ashley].

Shootout attempt by Fighting Irish Hudson, Waniya MISSED [Roque, Cristina].

Shootout attempt by Seminoles Nighswonger, Jenna MADE [Naylor, Ashley].

Florida State advanced to the final after a hard fought match with a tough Notre Dame side.

Post Game

Notre Dame outshot Florida State 28-18 (12 on goal for ND to 8 on goal for FSU).

FSU barely won the possession battle 52% to 48%.

I rarely do this but I have to start by talking about an opposing player. Korbin Albert was absolutely unbelievable tonight. She very nearly won the game single handedly for the Irish. Of course, she had the hat trick but she was dangerous all night with 10 shots (seven on goal) and many of them were rockets from distance. I can’t remember the last time that I have seen an opposing player make such a sustained impact in a game against Florida State. It was simply a virtuoso performance from Albert and she is only a sophomore.

This game was huge for NCAA tournament seeding purposes. Right now it is almost certain that three of the four #1 seeds have been claimed. UCLA and Alabama will get two of them and two of them will come from the ACC. North Carolina almost certainly claimed the third top seed after advancing on penalties against Duke. The winner of the FSU-ND game was in line to claim the last #1 seed. However, the game ended in a draw. FSU is likely in a slightly better position than the Irish right now due to the RPI.

Here is the top 10 in the RPI after Thursday’s games:

  1. UCLA
  2. Alabama
  3. North Carolina
  4. Florida St
  5. Notre Dame
  6. Duke
  7. Penn St
  8. Saint Louis
  9. Arkansas
  10. Stanford

Florida State will likely get a #1 seed regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s championship game but a victory would leave no doubt.

The Noles know how to win the ACC title. Florida State has won 8 of the last 11 ACC Tournaments.

The Seminoles didn’t play their very best tonight but they found a way against an inspired and talented opponent. Not to mention the fact that they were facing a player having a magical night. Sunday’s game will be extremely challenging especially since it will be a de facto home game for North Carolina. However, FSU is loaded with postseason experience and they have had UNC’s number in the postseason. It should be a great game between two heavyweights.

Next Game

Florida State will face North Carolina on Sunday for the ACC Championship. The game will kickoff at noon and will be broadcast on ESPNU.