No. 1 Florida State (12-0-1, 7-0-1 ACC) defeated no. 18 Pittsburgh (12-3-1, 5-1-1 ACC) by a 3-2 score tonight at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
In the 24th minute Florida State generated an opportunity. Jordynn Dudley and Taylor Huff played give and go on the left side. Dudley tracked the ball down before it got to the endline and she crossed it into the six for Jody Brown. Ellie Coffield got to the ball first and cleared it away. However, Onyi Echegini was there trailing the play. Echegini one-timed a left footed blast that hit the crossbar.
In the 45th minute the Panthers broke the ice. Heather Gilchrist was called for a handball at midfield. Ashton Gordon stepped up to take the free kick. Gordon lofted a beautiful ball into the box. Katie Zailski was the quickest to react to the ball. She was able to head the ball over the outstretched arm of a leaping Cristina Roque to give the Panthers a well earned 1-0 lead. Florida State will be disappointed to have conceded this goal. The Noles fell asleep a bit in the back as Zailski was not marked tight enough. However, Pitt really executed well here. Zailski obviously came through with the great flick on header but Gordon’s ball was wonderfully placed to give Zailski the chance to convert.
In the 54th minute Pitt generated another chance. The Panthers earned a corner kick. Sarah Schupansky stepped up to take it. Schupansky drove the ball to the edge of the six. Samiah Phiri back heeled it into the mixer. Chloe Minas managed to get a foot on it but her shot was just deflected over the crossbar by Lauren Flynn.
In the 64th minute FSU found the equalizer. The Noles earned a corner kick. Huff stepped up to take it. Huff sent a dangerous ball into the six. Flynn crashed down and got up over Ellie Coffield to smash a header into the back of the net to tie the score at one apiece.
In the 70th minute the Seminoles earned another chance. Huff controlled a long pass in the midfield. She took a couple of touches before spotting Brown making a run. Huff slipped a brilliant ball through the defense. Brown used her speed to tear past the defenders but keeper Ellie Breech came off her line brilliantly to snuff out the open chance.
In the 73rd minute the Noles took the lead. Beata Olsson received the ball in midfield. Olsson looked up and served a ball for Dudley to run onto. Dudley used her speed to get around Gordon. From there she roofed a one-time strike into the top of the net to give FSU a 2-1 lead. Breech had fairly good position but Dudley put so much pace on the ball that Breech was unable to stop it.
In the 76th minute the Seminoles earned an insurance goal. Leah Pais fed Brown just outside the box. Brown spotted Echegini at the edge of the 18. Echegini took a touch to her right before sliding a perfectly placed shot across her body into the left corner of the goal to give FSU a 3-1 lead.
However, Pitt would add to the drama. In the 82nd minute Deborah Abiodun served the ball into the box. Pais was not able to head it away and it bounced past her. Phiri ran for it but Flynn took her down from behind. The whistle sounded and Flynn was assessed a yellow while Pitt was awarded a penalty kick. Phiri stepped up to take it which is a bit unusual as the player that is fouled rarely takes the penalty. However in this case it worked out for the Panthers as Phiri made no mistake pulling Pitt within one goal at 3-2.
Nevertheless, Florida State was able to protect the lead from there and walk off with a tough 3-2 victory.
Pitt had 16 shots (2 on goal) while Florida State had 10 shots (4 on goal).
The Seminoles had 55% of the possession to 45% for Pitt.
Mimi Van Zanten got the start tonight as head coach Brian Pensky is still tinkering with the lineup.
This game was obviously a tale of two halves. The Seminoles stepped up (again) in the second half after a somewhat disappointing first half. After the game Coach Brian Pensky remarked on the strategy, “Our gameplan was to have our forwards help out in the midfield defensively. But by doing that we are taking ourselves away from our strength a little bit. I think that’s what happened in the first half. We were catering to them a little bit and they kind of had their way with us a little bit.” In the second half Pensky said that they made Pitt “adjust to us”. I think that explains a lot about what happened in that first half. When FSU went back to playing their game more chances were created, things opened up and the Noles scored more goals.
Florida State is so explosive. Once they went back to playing Seminole soccer the goals came as the strikers were unleashed. Players like Dudley, Huff, Echegini, Brown, Olsson, Nesbeth, etc. are so hard to handle in part because they are so good individually but also because there are so many good players in the attack for the Noles that the defense can’t focus on just one person.
This was the first game where I saw a noticeable drop off when the bench came in the game. Both Pitt goals came when the starters were on the sidelines. I think that it was just one of those games. The bench players are really talented in their own right. I expect them to bounce back in the next game.
It was a crazy night for Lauren Flynn. She lost her mark on the first Pitt goal. Then she bounced back with the smashing header for FSU’s first goal. But then she was booked for the foul in the box that gave Pitt the penalty kick. Flynn is the captain of the backline and one of the leaders of the team. We don’t discuss her rock steady performances enough but this was certainly a roller coaster game for her.
Florida State gets everyone’s best shot. Even so, Pitt played a really good game tonight. The Panthers were slightly better than the home squad in the first half but they just couldn’t withstand FSU’s offensive might in the second half. Also, Pitt played seven players more than 85 minutes and only used three subs in the game. The Panthers may have felt some fatigue late in the second half. Nevertheless, Randy Waldrum is one of the best coaches in the nation. He always has a good game plan and tonight it almost worked for a big upset.
This win gives Florida State 22 points and virtually guarantees the regular season ACC championship for the Noles. We will have a chance to discuss the implications of this achievement soon but Florida State continues their march toward the coveted #1 NCAA Tournament seed.
Florida State will travel to Durham, NC to face the Duke Blue Devils on Sunday. The game will kickoff at 1pm and will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.