Florida State 1 – Rutgers 0 – There were ebbs and flows on the offensive side of the ball but defense ruled in this one. Both teams had playmakers and the effort was there but neither were able to really fully settle into a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball that would enable them to pull away from their opponent. A couple very gutsy and crucial point-blank stops in goal by sophomore netminder Cristina Rogue and All-American midfielder Jaelin Howell’s ability to alertly place a bouncing ball back into the net at close range out of a corner kick put in play by Jenna Nighswonger gave FSU the edge they needed to top a very good Rutgers team.
FSU came out on the front foot and for the first five minutes of the game it looked like the Noles might breakthrough and get on the board early in the match but Rutgers played through the initial pressure and made the adjustments they needed to close the gaps that FSU was exploiting.
FSU sought from the get-go to play the ball out wide and stretch the field of play, get the best of the possession, and create seams that they could attack. Rutgers on the other hand primarily sought to create turnovers that they could convert into quick counter attacks that would provide space that forwards Amirah Ali, Frankie Tagliaferri and Allison Lowrey and midfielder Frankie Tagliaferri could quickly push into.
Credit a compact and organized Rutgers defense and in particular the ability of Scarlet Knight midfielders Tagliaferri, Sara Brocious, Becci Fluchel, Samantha Kroeger and Kylie Daigle to jam up the middle and disrupt FSU’s ability to put together the combinations of passes in the middle third that they needed to maintain possession and create scoring opportunities. There were times in the contest in which FSU’s lack of movement off the ball seemed to hamper their spacing and created situations that resulted in too many touches on the ball. In the second half the Seminoles began sending balls over the top of the midfield in an effort to find space they could exploit.
Credit FSU with picking up the pace in the second half while maintaining the patience on the offensive side of the ball and organization on the defensive side of the ball that enabled them to survive and advance. There were a few close calls but at the end of the day a rock-solid bend but don’t break Seminole defense avoided a costly letdown on the defensive side of the ball that might have changed the outcome of the match.
Both teams finished the game with nine shots with four on goal.
FSU advanced to the College Cup with 1-0 wins over Pepperdine and Michigan while Rutgers advanced past TCU in penalty kicks after the match was tied 1-1 and Arkansas in penalty kicks after the contest was tied 2-2. The fact that this one was a battle that was decided by a single goal was not surprising.
A primarily home-grown Rutgers team that included 23 players from the State of New Jersey finished a banner season under head coach Mike O’Neill with a 19-4-2 overall record and a legacy of excellence.
An outstanding Florida State team under head coach Mark Krikorian improves to 21-1-2 and takes another step forward toward their quest for a National Championship.
BYU 0 – Santa Clara 0 – BYU advances 3-2 in penalty kicks
This one took place before an enthusiastic sold-out crowd at Stevens Stadium in Santa Clara between two teams from the West Coast Conference. This one can best be described as a wild, yet disciplined on the defensive side of the ball, run and gun non-stop contest from the get-go.
As expected, BYU, the top goal scoring team in the country, came out on the front foot and pressed the attack. BYU had a 26-13 advantage in shots for the evening but that is a little misleading since both teams had 8 shots on goal. BYU goalkeeper Cassidy Smith had a seven save evening including a stop in the shootout while Santa Clara netminder Kylie Foutch had eight saves.
Both teams had opportunities to score in an attack-oriented contest. Jim McKay’s line “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” is never truer than in a contest like this one with so much riding on the outcome. It is tough when any contest has to be decided by a penalty kick shootout but nonetheless a contest like this on the biggest stage in college soccer is what all players hope to experience and there has to be some way to determine who advances when a contest in tied after 110 minutes of play.
Credit BYU’s defense anchored in goal by Cassidy Smith along with backs Kendell Peterson, Laveni Vaka, Grace Johnson, and Oliva Smith among others with doing an excellent job of containing Santa Clara forwards Kelsey Turnbow and Izzy D’Aquilla. Santa Clara goalkeeper Kylie Foutch along with Alex Loera, Eden White, Emma Reeves, Karly Reeves also did a great job of keeping BYU forward Cameron Tucker and midfielder Mikayla Colohan off the board.
Brecken Mozingo, Bella Folino and Olivia Wade converted their penalty kicks for BYU while Sally Menti and Izzy D’Aquila converted their opportunities from the spot for Santa Clara.
Santa Clara who advanced to the College Cup for the second year in a row under Jerry Smith concludes another outstanding season with a 15-5-3 record.
BYU under Jennifer Rockwood is 17-4-2 and advances to the National Championship.
BYU (17-4-2) vs. Florida State (21-1-2) – Monday 8 p.m. EST
This is not the time of the season during which teams make major departures from the style of play that has enabled them to advance to play for the National Championship. Both teams will seek to play to their strengths and do the things well that have worked for them all year.
A lot will hinge on which team will do a better job of settling into a balance that will enable them to apply the pressure they need to breakdown their opponent without leaving themselves vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball.
FSU will likely begin with a 4-3-3 while BYU will likely utilize a 4-4-2.
BYU will apply maximum pressure with a more north to south approach while FSU will seek to gain the upper hand by getting the best of possession while opening the field of play with a more east to west approach.
Look for the ability of FSU center backs Emily Madril and Lauren Flynn to handle the pressure that BYU forward Cameron Tucker and midfielder Mikayla Colohan apply to be a critical success factor.
The battle of the middle third will be fierce. The ability of FSU’s midfield to put together the combinations of passes they need to create gaps that they can exploit and to get the ball to the feet of forwards Beata Olsson, Jody Brown, Jenna Nighswonger and Leilanni Nesbeth among others in the attacking third will hinge on the ability of BYU midfielders Colohan, Jamie Shepherd, Bella Folino and others to hang in there with the likes of FSU midfielders Jaelin Howell, Clara Robbins and Yujie Zhao among others.
In a game like this FSU goalkeeper Cristina Rogue and BYU netminder Cassidy Smith will be tested. Both teams had grueling games on Friday which means that depth and stamina will be a factor as the game progresses.
The play and the tenacity of BYU All-Americans midfielder Colohan and forward Cameron Tucker and FSU All-Americans midfielder Howell and defender Madril will no doubt factor into the outcome of this game but it is going to require a total team effort for a full 90 minutes and maybe more.