No. 1 Florida State (18-0-1) defeated Texas A&M (10-8-4) by a 1-0 score tonight at the Seminole Soccer Complex to advance to the Sweet 16.
Florida State controlled possession for most of the game. However, in the first half that pressure didn’t translate into many opportunities. In fact it was Texas A&M who led in shots at the half 4-3. Florida State seemed just a bit off with their passing in the final third. Even when the Noles did earn chances in the first half it seemed at times that they struggled to pull the trigger.
In the second half things changed slightly as the Seminoles were able to impose their will on the game a bit more. FSU finally broke the scoring ice in the 55th minute. Heather Gilchrist sent the ball long out of Florida State’s defensive third. The ball was headed forward and Jordynn Dudley took over. Dudley flicked the ball over defender Margo Matula. She then out battled Carolyn Calzada for the ball and deftly volleyed the ball past Aggie keeper Kenna Caldwell into the back of the net. Florida State had a 1-0 lead. This was simply a moment of absolute brilliance from Dudley. There is really no defense for this type of skill and athleticism.
However, the Aggies would not go quietly into that good night. In the 68th minute Nole keeper Cristina Roque reminded everyone why she is still the cheat code. Texas A&M was on the attack. Sammy Smith ran onto a gorgeous ball in the FSU defensive third. Smith sent a dangerous cross through the box. Carissa Boeckmann was there to receive it in the middle of the box. Boeckmann took a touch and then fired a hard right footed drive that was ticketed for the back of the net. However, Roque had other ideas. The senior dove to her left to block the shot knocking it away toward safety. Roque has not been called upon for as many fantastic saves this year compared to previous seasons. However, with this play she proved that she has not lost her touch. This save was a beauty and the Seminoles absolutely needed it.
The Aggies never quit but FSU was able to salt the game away from there to take home a big win and most importantly advance to the Sweet 16.
Florida State outshot Texas A&M 12-9. However the Aggies had more shots on goal (5-4).
FSU won the possession battle 63% to 37%.
Florida State gutted out the win tonight. The Seminoles seemed slightly off (especially in the first half) as the Aggies were often able to keep FSU from possessing the ball in dangerous areas. A&M coach G Guerrieri remarked “We knew that we were gonna be out of possession for much of the game... but could we have them possess the ball where we wanted them to possess the ball. Could we have them possess the ball not in front of our goal.” The Aggies generally were able to do that and that really limited FSU’s dangerous chances.
However, only one team tonight had Jordynn Dudley.
We need to discuss Dudley a little bit because while she obviously had the huge goal she was also assessed a yellow card in the 87th minute. She was battling for the ball in the offensive third and she went down. The referee apparently thought that it was simulation. Dudley got up and had words for the referee and was then shown yellow. It is unclear whether the yellow card was for simulation or dissent but either way it was assessed.
Dudley reminds me a little bit of Shaquille O’Neal when he was in his prime with the Magic and especially with the Lakers. Referees had trouble officiating O’Neal because he was so much bigger and stronger than everyone else. They let a lot of contact go that they wouldn’t have let go if it had happened to almost any other player. Dudley is like that a little bit. She is so much more powerful and athletic than most players. Referees aren’t used to officiating someone with her gifts and they haven’t yet adjusted. There is also the issue with how defenders are playing Dudley. They are desperate to slow her down (sometimes by any means necessary) and that seems to lead to frustration on Dudley’s part when things are uncalled particularly the hair pulling that happens on a not infrequent basis. Dudley will have to play through this (and she is obviously doing well so far) but this is something to monitor as the Seminoles don’t need one of their best players to be at such a risk of picking up yellow cards.
This was not FSU’s best game but the Noles march on and that is all that is important at this time of year: Survive and Advance.
Florida State will meet Texas on Sunday at 5:30pm at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.