For a 19-year old, Deyna Castellanos has seen and done a lot.
Playing in multiple international tournaments with her native Venezuela, visiting the 2018 World Cup as an ambassador of the game and the Best FIFA Football Awards in 2017 as one of three finalists for Best FIFA Women’s Player.
She’s scored six goals in 13 appearances with the Venezuelan National Team, but she gets to check another major milestone off her list Friday.
Castellanos is one of 18 members of the Florida State soccer team that will be participating in their first College Cup this weekend.
“They always compare the stage as the World Cup. For me, even though it’s not the World Cup, it’s a really important game for us,” Castellanos said.
“It’s the reason I’m here and I’m very excited. Can’t wait to play.”
Capped off by a 1-0 win over Penn State last Friday in the quarterfinals, it marks the first time since 2015 that the Seminoles have made it to the NCAA Tournament Semifinals.
That two-year gap without a College Cup appearance is the second-longest without an appearance in the semifinals since Mark Krikorian took over the program in 2005.
Krikorian has led the Seminoles to nine of their 10 College Cup appearances in program history and their 10 since 2000 are the most in the nation.
“The goal is to compete for national championships. When you’re at a place like Florida State, that has to be the goal,” Krikorian said.
“The fact that we’re back into the College Cup and have a chance to go and compete for a national championship is that we’re going in the right direction. Now, it’s about a matter of us going out and competing on Friday night favorably and giving ourselves a chance to win.”
The Seminoles (18-4-3) are in for their toughest test of the season Friday night at 7:30 p.m. inside the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina when they face off with No. 1 overall seed Stanford (21-0-2).
Stanford is the defending national champion and enters Friday with a 45-match, 462-day unbeaten streak.
“If you look at the roster, it’s just one top-level player after the next,” Krikorian said.
“I think all elements about them, you can look at every aspect of Stanford in virtually every sport and see the excellence that exists there. Their soccer program is certainly another example of excellence.
“They’ve set a bar over the last couple years that all of us are trying to reach and we’re looking forward to Friday night.”
No. 1 seeds North Carolina (20-3-2) and Georgetown (21-0-3) will face off in the other semifinal Friday at 5 p.m. with a spot in Sunday’s NCAA Championship on the line.
It marks the first time since 2011 that all four top seeds advanced to the College Cup, a fitting statistic for an FSU team that has tested itself against the best of the best this season.
Omitting their own national title in 2014, the Seminoles will have played each of the last 11 national champions this season once they take on the Cardinal.
“We saw earlier in the year with USC coming in and UCLA coming in, a great game against Florida and stuff like that that there are a lot of great teams that want to play each other and it’s for this moment. It’ll get you ready to come and play when the NCAA Tournament comes around,” Krikorian said.
“By the nature of being in the ACC with so many quality opponents, you put a tough non-conference schedule together with a very difficult conference schedule and then, of course, the ACC Tournament, you’re battle-tested by the time that all comes to an end.”
Of the 15 other teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16, the Seminoles faced nine of them and played 11 total games against them during the regular season or ACC Tournament.
“I definitely think it’s going to help,” sophomore defender Malia Berkely said of FSU’s tough schedule.
“Our ACC Tournament was Duke, Virginia and then UNC, some of the best teams in the whole country. I think we did well against them and it’s just another test now to see how well we do.”
Despite the relative lack of experience at this stage, that has the Seminoles entering the weekend with confidence.
“I think we peaked at the right moment. We’re playing our best soccer right now and as a team I think we’re all excited,” Berkely said.
“We don’t really have the nerves right now which is good. We’re calm, cool and collected and just ready to play this game.”
Florida State vs. Stanford
NCAA Tournament Semifinal
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina