No. 1 Florida State (17-3-3) fell to North Carolina (20-4-1) by a 3-2 score tonight in the National Semifinal held in Cary, NC.
Florida State started the game strong. The Seminoles applied most of the pressure and had the majority of the possession. Unfortunately, FSU was not able to translate that pressure into dangerous chances. Even with all of that pressure it was North Carolina who was able to generate the first good chance of the game. In the 21st minute Tori Hansen received a pass on the left side. Hansen sent a dangerous cross into the six for Emily Moxley who was making a run in the box. Moxley got her foot up to knock it into the goal but it went into the side netting.
Florida State earned a good chance in the 29th minute. Heather Payne kept in an attempted clearance. Payne put a move on Avery Patterson before rifling a right footed shot toward goal but Carolina keeper Emmie Allen got her hand up at the last minute to knock the ball away for a nice save. However, the ball went out for a corner. Jenna Nighswonger stepped up to take it. Nighswonger lofted a nice ball to the back of the six. Clara Robbins was there for the header but it went just a little high bouncing off the crossbar out of play.
The Noles kept attacking. In the 30th minute Beata Olsson laid the ball back for LeiLanni Nesbeth who was charging into the box. Nesbeth got past a couple of UNC defenders before unleashing a blistering shot for goal but Allen was in great position to block the shot away.
At this point the Seminoles were asking lots of questions. In fact, FSU earned seven corner kicks in the first half. However, UNC keeper Emmie Allen was enjoying a great game and FSU wasn’t quite clinical enough in front of goal.
UNC would scratch first in the 42nd minute. Maddie Dahlien battled against Heather Gilchrist on the right side of the box. Dahlien sent a cross into the six. Payne was there to knock it away but unfortunately her clearance went right to Aleigh Gambone and she didn’t miss.
The perfect way to wrap up the first half— UNC Women's Soccer (@uncwomenssoccer) December 3, 2022
The goal was a bit against the run of play but they all count the same.
The goal seemed to breathe new life into the Tar Heels as they dominated the first 15 to 20 minutes of the second half. UNC had multiple chances to begin the second half as the Heels came out flying. The pressure that they were able to apply finally bore fruit in the 59th minute.
Carolina continued to possess the ball in the attacking third. Ally Sentnor was battling a couple of defenders before she sent a strike for goal from the edge of the box. Gilchrist was defending when the ball hit her elbow. The whistle sounded as the referee pointed to the spot. Hansen made no mistake on the penalty and the Heels had a 2-0 lead. This play echoed the handball called in the game against Carolina in Tallahassee when a shot struck Lauren Flynn in the arm. The past was prologue in this instance to the detriment of the Seminoles.
In the 66th minute UNC secured even more insurance. FSU conceded a free kick. Moxley stepped up to take it for the Heels. Moxley sent a beautiful ball into the box. Julia Dorsey got her head on it and redirected the ball into the net past Nole keeper Cristina Roque.
Nonstop action here in Cary!— UNC Women's Soccer (@uncwomenssoccer) December 3, 2022
However, to their everlasting credit the Noles refused to quit. Seconds later Flynn released Jody Brown with a great long ball down the right flank. Brown put a move on Emerson Elgin and executed a perfect cross into the box. Onyi Echegini was unmarked on the far side of the box and she banged home the header to put the Seminoles on the board.
Joe goes airborne to get the Noles on the board! #OneTribe— FSU Soccer (@FSUSoccer) December 3, 2022
: ESPNU pic.twitter.com/Tdk5E0lYVQ
The Seminoles kept up the pressure. In the 68th minute Brown ran at the UNC defense in the middle of the field. She found Echegini on the left side. Echegini cranked up a scalding shot that was deflected just wide right of the post by Dorsey.
The Seminoles would creep closer in the 76th minute. Echegini received the ball on the right side. After battling with two defenders Echegini delivered a glorious cross into the box. Payne was waiting for it unmarked in the box and she slammed a header past Allen to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Joe ➡️ Heather— FSU Soccer (@FSUSoccer) December 3, 2022
LET'S GO NOLES!!!
: ESPNU pic.twitter.com/S2IWp5TDgY
From there the Noles kept pressing but they weren’t able to secure the equalizer as North Carolina advanced to the championship game.
Florida State outshot North Carolina 25-14 (11 to six on goal).
FSU also had 13 corner kicks to three for UNC.
Florida State played well for most of the game. Carolina carried the play for the first 20 or so minutes of the second half but FSU mostly controlled the rest of the game. However, UNC got a pair of lucky breaks and that decided the game. This is not to take anything away from the Heels. They deserve credit for taking advantage of those breaks.
The Seminoles will really regret how they weren’t able to convert most of the chances that they generated especially in the first half. The first few corner kicks were really squandered.
However, this was a high level contest between two heavyweights. Florida State deserves a ton of credit for clawing back and netting the final two goals. Many if not most teams would have folded after going down 3-0 to a team as good as Carolina. Not this bunch. The Noles not only kept playing but they got results.
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough and now the focus will turn to the offseason. Florida State will lose three very important players in Jenna Nighswonger, Heather Payne and Clara Robbins. However, the Noles will welcome a top 5 recruiting class of four really talented players. Coach Brian Pensky will also be very active in the transfer portal.
We will have more time soon to discuss how things look for next year. However, FSU can be really proud of the results from this year. After all of the turmoil that the program experienced in the summer Florida State delivered another ACC championship along with yet another trip to the College Cup. It really looks like Florida State is on course to remain one of the elite programs in college soccer for some time to come.