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No. 6 FSU soccer guts out a season opening win at Texas A&M

Taylor Huff announces her presence in her first game at Florida State.

Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK

No. 6 Florida State (1-0) defeated Texas A&M (0-1) by a 2-1 score tonight in College Station, TX.

Game Recap

The Seminoles started the game by employing their trademark possession tactics. Centerbacks Lauren Flynn and Heather Gilchrist knocked the ball back and forth a bit to establish possession.

Unfortunately, Florida State suffered a significant injury early in the game. In the 12th minute Claire Rain was running down the right flank defending against MaKhiya McDonald. The Aggie forward cut the ball back and when she did Rain was spun around and she went down with an apparent left knee injury. Rain left the game and wouldn’t return. She was seen after the game on the sidelines using crutches. Rain was replaced at left back by Amelia Van Zanten.

The Aggies generated the first good chance in the 17th minute. TAMU sent a long ball down the right flank. Van Zanten got there before McDonald and tried to wall off the Aggie forward as the ball rolled in the box toward the endline. McDonald successfully got around Van Zanten and caught up to the ball before it went over the endline. Mia Pante made a run into the box. McDonald laid the ball off for her. Pante one-timed a right foot blast that sailed over the crossbar.

In he 22nd minute the Noles generated their first good chance. Van Zanten picked off a pass in the midfield. She carried the ball into the Aggie defensive third before laying it off for Lily Farkas who was lurking behind her. Farkas found Jordynn Dudley who was posting up just outside the box. Dudley left the ball for Beata Olsson who took a touch before rifling a low hard shot that went just wide left.

The Noles kept the heat on in the 23rd minute. Macy Matula was being pressured by Dudley in the back so she sent a back pass back to keeper Kenna Caldwell. The pass was from too far out and didn’t have enough on it so an opportunistic Olsson was able to intercept it right outside the box. Olsson was 1v1 with the keeper but Caldwell came off her line aggressively and did a nice job to cut off Olsson’s angle. Caldwell was able to deflect the shot out for a corner kick.

FSU broke the scoring ice in the 24th minute. Olsson received a midfield throw-in and immediately turned for goal. The defense stepped to her so Olsson took a shot from about 23 yards away. The ball deflected off an Aggie defender and caromed over the outstretched arm of Kenna Caldwell into the goal. FSU was fortunate but all goals count the same.

However, Texas A&M was undeterred. The Aggies found the equalizer in the 40th minute. McDonald once again chased a ball down on the right flank. She sent a perfect cross into the box that found Sammy Smith’s head. Smith sent the header past Cristina Roque for the tying goal.

In the 50th minute the Aggies generated another chance. Pante received the ball on the right flank and drove on Van Zanten. Pante cut the ball back to the middle and fired a left foot shot from distance the went just wide left.

In the 58th minute the Seminoles created another chance. Sophia Nguyen sent an arching cross into the box from the right flank. The ball bounced dangerously in the six. Olivia Garcia headed it for goal but Caldwell was there to make a nice diving save.

In the 63rd minute the Aggies generated another chance. Taylor Pounds intercepted a pass in the midfield. She looked up and spotted Jazmine Wilkinson making a run. Pounds sent a brilliant pass for Wilkinson that split the Seminole defense. Wilkinson ran onto it and tried to chip the ball over Roque who was off her line. However, the ball floated over the crossbar.

In the 69th minute the Noles created another chance. Ran Iwai found Taylor Huff in the midfield. Huff turned and managed to pick out Joe Echegini who was lurking just outside the box. Echegini controlled the ball off her chest and then executed a brilliant first touch to separate from the defenders before sending a shot straight toward goal. Caldwell was beaten but the ball hit the crossbar before rebounding back onto the field. Macy Matula cleared it away.

In the 86th minute Florida State broke through with the game winner. Iwai received the ball in midfield from Gilchrist. Iwai turned and spotted Huff making a run. Iwai sent in a glorious ball over the defense. Huff split two defenders to run onto it. Caldwell came off her line to pressure Huff but that tactic didn’t work. Huff toe-poked the ball past Caldwell into the back of the net for the game winner.

Post Game

Florida State had 11 shots (5 on goal) while Texas A&M had 10 shots (4 on goal).

Neither Jody Brown nor LeiLanni Nesbeth played in the game.

This was a tough opener for the Seminoles but they persevered for the win. FSU had to overcome the 106 degree heat along with an energized Aggie crowd to get the victory.

Winning is the most important thing and the Noles should be proud to get the win in a hostile environment in the first game of the season.

However, there are things that can be improved (keeping in mind that this was the first game). FSU can be a bit more sturdy in the back. There were times when the Aggies had too much space in the attacking third. This was especially true on the goal where Sammy Smith was wide open for the header.

The other thing is that the Seminoles weren’t able to consistently build through the midfield. It’s okay to be direct on occasion but too much of the offense was being initiated with balls over the top. This is an issue that may be corrected (or at least improved upon) when Nesbeth returns.

Of course there were some good things. The freshmen are ready for this. Jordynn Dudley didn’t get the consistent service that she needed to really shine in this game but it is clear that she has what it takes with her skill and athleticism to be a future star. Mimi Van Zanten was pressed into service early after Claire Rain’s unfortunate injury. I don’t think that I have ever seen a more confident player in her first college game. Van Zanten immediately carried the ball up field putting pressure on the Aggie defense like she was a seasoned veteran. I was told that Dudley and Van Zanten were impressive in camp and it is easy to see why they were turning heads.

Echegini came in and played 59 minutes - all in the midfield. It looks like Echegini will be playing in the midfield with Huff and Nesbeth (when she is healthy). Dudley will likely take Echegini’s former spot on the wing.

No. 9 TCU awaits and the Noles will likely have to be a bit more consistent to get the win in Fort Worth. However, this was a good opening performance for the Seminoles. Winning is in this program’s DNA. The Noles usually find a way and they did tonight.

Next Game

Florida State will travel to Fort Worth, TX to meet the TCU Horned Frogs on Sunday. The game will kickoff at 8pm and will be broadcast on ESPN+.