CHARLESTON, S.C. (theACC.com) – Florida State scored less than four minutes into Friday night’s Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Soccer semifinal match against Clemson. The three-time defending champion Seminoles spent the next 86 minutes weaving a defensive masterpiece.
The sixth-seeded Seminoles (13-3-3) kept second-seeded Clemson off the scoreboard en route to a 1-0 victory that earned them a spot in noon Sunday’s championship match against fourth-seeded North Carolina (noon, ESPNU). The Tigers (13-4-3), who tied with Notre Dame for the top spot in the ACC regular-season standings, will await Monday’s 4:30 p.m. NCAA Championship pairings announcement.
FSU goalkeeper Cassie Miller made three saves, and head coach Mark Krikorian praised his entire unit for its work in recording its 13th shutout of the season. Friday night’s effort came against a Clemson squad that entered the ACC’s leading team in points (7.53 per game) and tied for the conference lead in goals scored (2.37 per contest).
“I thought overall that our kids competed very favorably,” Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian said. “Clemson is a very good team and they have a lot of good players. You have to be prepared for the air game. I thought our back line did a reasonably good job of picking up those first balls, and then on the second balls, I thought we did a good job of picking those up as well.”
It didn’t take long for the the Seminoles to grab the attention of those in attendance at MUSC Health Stadium, as they scored at the 41:08 mark of the opening half to grab the lead. Pinpoint passes by Kaycie Tillman and Malia Berkely set up Megan Connolly, who registered her sixth goal of the season.
“It was big boost,” Krikorian said. “At the end of the day, it proved to be the game winner. It came off a set piece, and although it doesn’t relax you, it certainly gives you a little more confidence.”
Clemson head coach Eddie Radwanski lamented FSU’s quick strike, but felt his team had several chances to counter throughout the course of the match.
“We made a mistake in the opening minutes of the match, and we have no one to blame but ourselves,” Radwanski said. “You’ve got to manage those moments, and we didn’t manage that one particularly well. Florida State is not a team historically that gives up a lot of goals. They manage the game very well defensively.
As it turned out, it was the only score that FSU needed to record its eighth-straight win in ACC Championship competition and reach the finals for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
“We created a lot of half-chances that might have created some scoring chances,” Radwanski said. “With a little luck, it might have fallen our way. When you get into the second half, you are chasing a little bit and we were trying to be dangerous a little bit and create chances. But credit to Florida State for holding on, and I credit my team for fighting all the way down to the final whistle.”
The Seminoles last reached the finals as a No. 6 seed in 2011, when they captured the first of their four ACC titles under Krikorian’s watch.
“Every time you go out you want to play, you want to compete, you want to give yourself a chance to win,” Krikorian said. “This is the youngest team we’ve had since I’ve been at Florida State. It’s a collection of little kids, but they’re not afraid to go out and battle, and that can serve them well.”
North Carolina and FSU met at Chapel Hill in the last game of the regular season on Oct. 27, when the Tar Heels came away with a 1-0 win.
“I thought the quality of the pressure by Carolina in the first half of that first game was excellent,” Krikorian said. “They brought a great deal of energy and they pressed us. At the end of the day (Sunday), we’re going to have to be better with the ball in order to win the game.
“We have to prepare for a battle. They are going to be putting a lot of balls in our penalty box and there’s going to be a lot of competing and fighting and so on. We have to be ready for that.”