(1) Florida State (20-4-3) defeated (1) North Carolina (21-4-2) by a 1-0 score in Cary, NC to win the 2018 NCAA women’s soccer National Championship. It’s the second title for the Seminoles. FSU’s first championship came in 2014 (1-0 vs. Virginia).
North Carolina didn’t take long to get going in this game. In the first minute Dorian Bailey received a pass in the attacking third from Julia Ashley. Bailey turned and tried to slip a pass to Alex Kimball, but there was a miscommunication, as Kimball never made her run. The ball went through and Natalia Kuikka attempted to clear it. However, the clearance didn’t go far enough so Kimball was able to intercept the ball. Kimball took a touch and sent a shot toward goal, but it didn’t have much on it, allowing FSU keeper Caroline Jeffers to make a relatively easy save.
In the 23rd minute the Seminoles generated their best opportunity of the 1st half. Yujie Zhao received a pass in midfield from Gabby Carle. Zhao then executed a pretty give-and-go with Deyna Castellanos. After Zhao got the ball back she delivered a gorgeous ball to a wide open Dallas Dorosy. Dorosy took a couple of touches and rocketed a shot that went just wide right.
In the 36th minute Carolina earned a corner kick. Lotte Wubben-Moy stepped up to take it. Wubben-Moy served an extremely dangerous ball into the Seminole six yard box. Rachael Dorwart leaped over Megan Connolly to head the ball. Jaelin Howell was also there and she attempted a defensive header, but Dorwart beat her to the ball. Fortunately for FSU, Dorwart’s header went just wide left. FSU plays zone defense on corners, but its weakness is that there are sometimes seams or pockets for strikers to exploit. UNC was able to do that in this case but the Heels couldn’t finish.
In the 54th minute the Tar Heels earned another corner. Wubben-Moy delivered a gorgeous out-swinger that ended up on the edge of FSU’s six yard box. Kimball charged up to make an aggressive header. In doing so, she hit Howell in the head. The game was briefly paused so Howell could be checked out. Howell was briefly sent to the sideline, but she returned shortly thereafter.
In the 60th minute Florida State broke the scoring ice. It was UNC nemesis Dallas Dorosy, once again, getting the job done for the ’Noles. FSU regained possession in the midfield after a nice defensive play by Howell. Anna Patten retrieved the ball and passed it to Kaycie Tillman. Tillman delivered the ball to Castellanos on the right flank. The Seminole sensation dribbled the ball to the edge of the 18 yard box, before sending a cross into the box. Dorosy made a perfectly timed run beating Wubben-Moy to the ball. Dorosy was able to lunge forward, barely getting the tip of her toe on the ball and redirecting it past UNC keeper Samantha Leshnak. Leshnak’s momentum was taking her the wrong way, and she couldn’t recover in time to stop Dorosy’s toe poke:
In the 66th minute UNC tried to get the equalizer. Julia Ashley took the ball out of the midfield and executed a nice give-and-go with Rachel Jones. Ashley found herself with acres of space down the right flank. She dribbled down and executed a nice cross for Annie Kingman, who was making a nice run down the middle of the field. Kingman tried to one-time a shot on goal, but it went high and wide. Kingman had a bit more time than she thought and, in hindsight, would’ve been better served to take a touch before she shot it.
Carolina kept coming at the Noles. In the 67th minute the Tar Heels generated another dangerous chance. Kingman tried to release Ashley down the right flank. Ashley was met by Olivia Bergau. Ashley played the ball back to Kingman in the right corner. After a nifty one-two play, Kingman released Ashley who found the space to deliver a left-footed service to Ru Mucherera in the box. Mucherera was being harassed by Carle, but as she was falling she was able to get the ball over to Dorwart. Dorwart launched a one-timer toward goal, but it was blocked by Malia Berkely.
In the 72nd minute Kingman won the ball in the midfield for UNC. She was able to release Madison Schultz with a very nice ball down the left flank. Schultz raced past Carle and was able to get a shot off, but Jeffers was perfectly placed, and the Seminole stopper was able to catch the ball for a relatively easy save.
In the 80th minute Carolina generated another opportunity. Julia Ashley delivered a nice ball out of midfield trying to pick out Brianna Pinto. Pinto used her speed to split two Seminole defenders, eventually reaching the ball. After a battle with Carle, Pinto laid the ball off for Bailey who was trailing in support. Bailey toe poked a pass to Schultz in the box. Schultz turned on Anna Patten and sent a left-footed shot toward goal. Jeffers, again in the right place, was able to catch the ball and end the threat:
In the 85th minute the Heels had another dangerous opportunity. Brooke Bingham took the ball from Carolina’s defensive third and drove it up-field. The Seminoles didn’t shut her down quickly enough, allowing her to slip a nice pass through for Taylor Otto. However, Jeffers made a very nice play to race off her line and smother the ball before Otto could get to it.
From that point, Carolina kept attacking, but the Heels couldn’t generate another dangerous opportunity against the FSU defense. Florida State was able to deny the Tar Heel offense and the Seminoles captured the second soccer national championship in program history:
Florida State had eight shots (three on goal) while North Carolina also generated eight shots (two on goal). The Heels also earned five corner kicks, while holding the Noles to just one.
This was a fairly physical game with both teams being called for 12 fouls. FSU’s Anna Patten was the only player booked (yellow card). UNC was also called five times for being offside, while FSU wasn’t called once for being offside.
Dallas Dorosy was named the College Cup’s most outstanding offensive player, while Jaelin Howell was honored as the most outstanding defensive player:
Berkely, Carle, Kuikka, and Jeffers were also named to the all-tournament team:
2018 #WCollegeCup All Tournament Team
— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 2, 2018
Despite the fact that FSU won, this game followed a script that likely pleased UNC coach Anson Dorrance. Florida State frustrates teams by keeping possession. The Noles are extremely good at this, and it’s effective partly because opponents are not used to facing it and partly because FSU is so proficient at it. In this game, the Heels were largely effective in short-circuiting the midfield dominance required to effectively play the possession style. Because of this, UNC was able to blunt much of FSU’s attack, as the Seminoles rely on that midfield possession to generate the bulk of their offensive opportunities.
Despite the lack of possession, Florida State was able to win the game because of continued great play from the back line and solid goal keeping from Jeffers. Before today the Heels had only been shutout once this entire season (1-0 vs. Santa Clara on Sept. 7th). In this College Cup, Florida State was able to shut out Stanford and North Carolina, two of the most potent offenses in college soccer. That the Noles were able to accomplish this with their backup keeper says a lot about the strength of the defense, and the talent of Jeffers.
This is Florida State’s second national championship in six months. The softball team won the national title in June. I will have much more on the season in a few days, but until then, congratulations to the national champion Florida State Seminoles!