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FSU ends UVA’s dream in College Cup on PKs

By Kip Coons
Special to JerryRatcliffe.com

uva womens soccerCARY, N.C. – All of a sudden, Sahlen’s Stadium has become an unfriendly venue for Virginia in penalty shootouts.

Florida State freshman goalkeeper Cristina Roque denied the Cavaliers a chance to play for the NCAA women’s soccer championship when she saved two penalty kicks in a shootout Thursday night, and the Seminoles made all three of their attempts to advance to the College Cup final.

After UVa and FSU played to a 0-0 tie in 110 minutes of regulation and two overtimes, the Seminoles won the shootout 3-0 to gain a berth in the final for the fifth time in school history. FSU won the 2014 and 2018 titles in its 10 previous College Cup trips.

Top-seeded Florida State will play either second-seeded North Carolina or 11th-seeded Santa Clara for the championship at 5:30 p.m. Monday. The Tar Heels and Broncos played in the second semifinal Thursday night.

It was the second straight time that a Virginia team lost in a shootout at WakeMed Soccer Park. In the 2019 men’s final, Georgetown won the men’s championship in a shootout 7-6 after a 3-3 tie. The UVa men had previously won the 2009 and 2014 NCAA titles at WakeMed in shootout victories over Akron and UCLA.

The UVa women had not gone to a penalty shootout since the second round of the 2018 tournament, when they advanced past Texas Tech.

Florida State (13-0-2), on the other hand, experienced a shootout only four days earlier, topping Duke 5-3 after a 0-0 tie in the quarterfinals. Although the Seminoles haven’t scored a goal in 240:13, since the late stages of a 3-1 win over Penn State in the round of 16, they have advanced to the championship game.

Having experienced a shootout so recently might have made a difference in comfort level for Florida State, UVa coach Steve Swanson said.

“It’s hard to say,” Swanson said. “They certainly were better than us tonight. I certainly thought that was a factor.”

The shootout went off the rails for the Cavaliers (14-4-3) right from the start, when the first shooter, UVa’s Alexa Spaanstra, sailed her shot over the crossbar. Roque, who saved the first kick by Duke in the shootout Sunday to give the Seminoles the immediate upper hand, then stopped the next two kicks, by Diana Ordonez and Taryn Torres.

“She sure doesn’t play like a freshman, does she?” FSU coach Mark Krikorian said of Roque, who was credited with five saves during dynamic play. “When we needed her to stand tall, she did.”

The Seminoles were perfect on their three shootout attempts against UVa goalkeeper Laurel Ivory, with Clara Robbins, Emily Madril, and Gabby Carle finding the range.

Swanson said the Cavaliers had their chances to avoid the shootout but failed to convert several opportunities in the first half, which they dominated when they outshot the Seminoles 6-1.

“We had chances to end the game and not get into penalty kicks,” he said. “We liked the way we played (in the first half), but we didn’t have anything to show for that.”

Swanson altered his usual lineup, flipping his wing forwards so that Rebecca Jarrett played on the left and Alexa Spaanstra on the right. The adjustment created a lot of space for Jarrett on her flank runs and nearly paid immediate dividends for UVa.

In the 13th minute Jarrett ran past her defender, cut toward the middle of the field, and blasted a shot from 18 yards that hit the crossbar. The ball bounced out of the goalmouth, where Roque was able to collect it.

UVa freshman midfielder Lia Godfrey had two good looks late in the half. The first, from 15 yards, was blocked in the 41st minute by an FSU defender. Two minutes later, Roque came up with a big save when she smothered Godfrey’s free kick from 20 yards.

“I thought Virginia gave us all we could handle,” said Krikorian, whose Seminoles beat UVa during the regular season in the fall 4-3. “We were fortunate to come into halftime 0-0 and regroup.”

Torres, one of the UVa captains, agreed.

“We came in at halftime thinking we should have had a goal,” she said. “As good a team as Florida State is, we felt we outplayed them and should have had a goal.”

Krikorian wasn’t sure why his team looked so flat in the first half, but the Seminoles found their footing thereafter.

They held a 6-2 advantage in shots in the second half and ended with a slight edge, 10-9. Ivory finished with two saves for UVa, including one in the first overtime on a drive by Robbins.

Both teams had chances to end it in the overtime periods, as Roque saved a header by Ordonez in the 103rd minute, and a minute later the UVa defense blocked another attempt by Robbins from close range.

“Florida State is not the kind of team that will give you a game,” Swanson said. “You’ve got to earn it.”

In general though, Swanson was proud that his team, unseeded in the tournament, advanced to the fourth College Cup in program history and the first in seven years. Battling the effects of the pandemic and injuries all season long made it that much more difficult, as well as satisfying.

“It’s hard to stay motivated and to stay focused when you don’t have as many games,” he said. The Cavaliers played the bulk of their schedule last fall. In fact, they played more games in the NCAA tournament (5) than they did all spring (4).

“There’s a lot of positives to the season,” Swanson added. “This will sting for a little bit, but they made a great accounting of themselves.”

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