(7) Florida State (31-6, 19-2 ACC) is on an absolute roll. The Seminoles have won 15 straight games. That hot streak has vaulted FSU to the top of the ACC. The Noles are also the highest ranked team in the conference.
There are three main reasons for the success: pitching, defense and big innings. The pitching has been simply stellar. Kathryn Sandercock (16-1, 1.30 ERA), Caylan Arnold (9-4, 1.51 ERA) and Danielle Watson (6-0, 2.01 ERA) have all stepped up big for Florida State this season. Last year the team ERA was 2.34. This year the team ERA has shrunk to 1.68 which is not far off from the 1.50 mark posted by the 2018 championship team led by Meghan King. This year’s team ranks 13th nationally in ERA.
The defense has also been very good. Florida State ranks 19th nationally (1st ACC) in fielding percentage at .977. Of course the Noles have delivered the occasional sensational play:
But in general the solid and steady defense behind the great pitching has allowed the Seminoles to stay in the game until the offense can get cranked up.
This brings us to the big inning which is the third major factor in FSU’s success thus far in the season. Not counting walk-off innings, Florida State has scored in 29 innings during the streak and in only six of those innings have the Noles scored only one run. Therefore, in 79.3% of scoring innings the Noles have scored at least two runs. That is a lot of crooked numbers.
The offense hasn’t been as potent as expected and that is an area of concern for FSU fans. However, if the Seminoles continue to combine great pitching with solid defense and timely hitting this team is still a solid bet to make another College World Series run.
Florida State finished the fall season with an 11-0 record playing a schedule made up entirely of ACC opponents. The Seminoles finished the fall season with an ACC Tournament victory over North Carolina.
Since then the Noles fell off the grid. Florida State played a shadow schedule in the spring. The spring games were challenging but they were not publicized and it was very hard to get any information about how the Seminoles played in those games. However, from all indications FSU was impressive in the seven spring games played. The Noles faced NWSL teams the Orlando Pride and Racing Louisville twice each along with a pair of dates against a male club team. The Seminoles rounded out the spring season with a date in Gainesville against the University of Florida.
Even though we haven’t seen them since November, the Noles have maintained their number one ranking nationally and were rewarded with the top overall seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
The roster has seen two significant losses from the fall. All-American defender Malia Berkely has taken her talents to FC Girondins de Bordeaux in France. Reserve (former starter) goal keeper Brooke Bollinger has transferred to Alabama for her final season. These are significant losses. Berkely is an extremely talented player who would have very likely been a top 5 NWSL selection had she stayed stateside. She also plays a position where the Seminoles aren’t especially deep. Freshman Lauren Flynn will take her place in the starting lineup.
Speaking of not being deep, Florida State had only two goal keepers on the roster in the fall and now one of them plays for Alabama. Talented freshman and former five-star recruit Cristina Roque won the starting job in training camp. If she can remain healthy for five games FSU will be just fine. However, an injury to Roque would see Alyssa Conarton pressed into action. Conarton played some keeper at the youth level but she was recruited to Tallahassee as a defender. She obviously hasn’t played in goal at this level. Suffice it to say that if Roque goes down things will get very dicey for FSU in a hurry.
Despite those losses, the top seed is probably appropriate because FSU remains loaded with talent. Barring injury, this tournament is probably FSU’s to lose. Florida State is the best team in this tournament. The Seminoles have the best chance of any team to win the national championship. In fact, if this were an NBA playoff type event where teams won by winning best of seven series I would bet every dime I had on this team and then I would go to the bank and borrow more money to wager. Nobody is beating this team four out of seven games.
However, this is not a best of seven event. In a one and done scenario anyone can lose. Soccer is a cruel game. It is very possible for the Noles to lose a fluky game. We will find out how the Seminoles will do starting on May 1st when they take on the winner of the Elon vs UW Milwaukee opening game.
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