Florida State (7-0-2, 3-0-0 ACC) defeated Clemson (5-3-2, 1-2-0 ACC) by a 3-1 score today at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Tallahassee, FL.
The Seminoles got off to a quick start in this game. In the second minute Heather Payne and Jenna Nighswonger played give and go in the midfield. Payne got the ball back and charged at the Clemson defense. Payne took a few touches and fired a left footed shot from about 21 yards away that went just inches wide left of the goal.
In the seventh minute the Noles cracked the scoreboard. Clara Robbins received the ball in the attacking third. She spotted Onyi Echegini knifing through the Tiger defense. Echegini caught up with the ball just before it went over the endline. She sent a dangerous cross into the six. Clemson keeper Halle Mackiewicz deflected the cross but couldn’t control it. Jody Brown pounced on it and sent a left footed strike into the back of the net.
Clemson generated a chance in the 25th minute. Renee Lyles received the ball in midfield and dribbled the ball into the attacking third while being defended by Heather Gilchrist. Lyles eventually slid the ball over for Caroline Conti who was trailing in support. Conti was immediately challenged from behind by Clara Robbins. Conti went down and the whistle sounded as the referee called Robbins for the foul. Clemson was awarded the free kick from about 23 yards out. Conti took the kick and went straight for goal but her right footed strike went inches over the crossbar.
FSU widened the lead in the 31st minute. Olivia Garcia received the ball on the left flank. Brown made a great run to slip past the Tiger defense. Garcia got the ball to Brown on the left wing. Brown took a touch and fired a perfect cross into the box. Maria Alagoa was there and she was just able to stick her right foot out to slide the ball past a charging Mackiewicz for the second Seminole goal.
In the 65th minute the Seminoles secured an insurance goal. The Tigers turned the ball over in a bad spot. Olsson pounced on the poor pass. She one-timed a pass to Brown who made a quick run into the box. Brown one-timed a left footed shot into the lower left corner of the goal to beat Mackiewicz and give the Seminoles a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Noles weren’t done. In the 69th minute Robbins switched the field with a nice ball for Payne on the right flank. Payne took a couple of touches before sending a cross into the box. Garcia leapt up and got her head on the ball redirecting it on goal but her shot hit the crossbar and went over the endline. The shot was defected by Clemson for a corner but FSU was unable to capitalize on the set piece.
Florida State was in cruise control looking to finish off the game but Clemson had other ideas. In the 87th minute FSU was knocking the ball around in the back. Ran Iwai sent a pass back for Robbins. However, Robbins took her eye off the ball and it slipped under her foot. Maria Manousos jumped on the ball and was 1v1 with Cristina Roque in goal. Robbins ran back to challenge Manousos and both players fell to the turf. The ref immediately blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. Makenna Morris stepped up to take the penalty kick for the Tigers and she scored with a right footed shot to the lower left corner of the goal.
From there the Noles salted the game away and went home with the well earned 3-1 victory.
Florida State outshot Clemson 12-7 (5-4 on goal).
The Seminoles won the possession battle 58% to 42%.
Florida State played most of the game without two starting midfielders. Jenna Nighswonger only played 13 minutes. She left the game after a clash of heads with Clemson midfielder Hal Hershfelt. LeiLanni Nesbeth only played 22 minutes. She left the game with an apparent lower leg injury. After the game Coach Brian Pensky said that he was unsure of the status of the two players. They will be evaluated by doctors but it is thought that both players will be okay for the next game. Pensky even said that it is possible that they could have come back in this game but they decided to take a cautious approach as FSU had a comfortable lead.
The game changed when Nighswonger and Nesbeth left. FSU had to move Clara Robbins to holding midfield and Pensky decided to bring in Kaitlyn Zipay to play in the midfield. Robbins is used to playing in midfield but not at the holding midfield spot. Zipay is a striker and she has basically no experience playing in the midfield at this level. When Nighswonger and Nesbeth were playing the game looked like a normal FSU soccer game. The Noles dominated possession and kept the opponent on their back foot. When those two players departed the game looked like a normal college soccer game. Both teams traded possession and there wasn’t a huge difference between the teams regarding holding the ball. In fact, it could be argued that FSU’s third goal came a bit against the run of play.
We have discussed this before but Florida State does not have it’s normal depth after the turmoil of the summer. The Seminoles only have 21 players on the roster. If Nighswonger and Nesbeth have to leave there is no Jaelin Howell or Yujie Zhao to replace them. Simply put, FSU cannot afford injuries. Everyone on the team is talented and based on what we have seen from them this year the Noles have what it takes to be elite. However, they won’t be able to prove it if important players have to miss extended time with injuries.
Florida State will travel to Coral Gables to face the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday. The game will kick off at 5pm and will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.