Once again, 110 minutes wasn’t enough to separate them.
For the second time this season, the Florida State and Southern California soccer teams were level after 90 minutes and two 10-minute overtime periods.
While the first matchup back in August ended in a draw, Sunday’s went to penalty kicks with a spot in NCAA Quarterfinals on the line.
It was the first time since 2005 that FSU went to penalty kicks in the NCAA Tournament and the first time in program history that PKs were played out in Tallahassee.
After each team made their first four kicks, USC’s Leah Pruitt’s shot was pushed wide by FSU goalkeeper Caroline Jeffers on the Trojans’ fifth attempt.
In front of a crowd of 1,479 at the Seminole Soccer Complex, FSU freshman Yujie Zhao stepped up to the spot and buried the shot in the bottom left corner past USC goalkeeper Kaylie Collins to give the top-seeded Seminoles (18-4-2) a 5-4 penalty-kick win over No. 4 seed USC (17-3-2) and send them to the Round of Eight for the first time since 2015.
“The game played out as we kind of thought it would play out,” FSU head coach Mark Krikorian said.
“Very challenging for us, but at the end of the day we found a way to continue on.”
That NCAA Quarterfinal matchup will again be at home Friday against Penn State
For Jeffers, it was a moment she wasn’t expected to be in. She’s served as the backup to redshirt freshman Brooke Bollinger for the majority of this season before she was thrown into the starting job for the NCAA Tournament after Bollinger suffered an injury.
In her sixth appearance of the season, Jeffers outdueled Collins — the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year — and stopped the shot of Pruitt, who finishes her USC career with 22 goals.
“She was just kind of lined up towards the far post and a lot of times, girls turn their hips and try to go the other way so I just guessed that she was going that way,” Jeffers said.
“We train for this every single day…Just always be ready mentally.”
Although Sunday’s game was a matchup between the first and fourth seeds in the region, that’s not telling how closely matched the teams were.
FSU was ranked fifth and USC was No. 6 in the most recent United Soccer Coaches Poll.
“You got a really good game that — I’m just going to be honest — I don’t think should have been played in the Sweet 16,” USC head coach Keidane McAlpine said.
“I think the committee got it wrong. I think they devalued the work, the body of our season and it’s disappointing because I think the kids deserved more, I think Florida State deserved more.”
Added Krikorian, “I have nothing but great respect for the group from Southern Cal. I think that their coaches are exceptional, they recruit very good players and they play a very hard attacking style of soccer.”
The game backed this up as it played out in an intense back-and-forth fashion with both teams holding control for long stretches.
For the second straight match, senior forward Dallas Dorosy leveled the score after FSU fell behind in the first half.
Her 65th-minute goal came off a corner kick from Malia Berkely which headed into the six-yard box by Jaelin Howell and kicked in right in front of the net by Dorosy.
It was Dorosy’s fifth goal of the season, with four of those coming in the last four matches for the player Krikorian has dubbed ‘Ms. November.’
“I think it’s my teammates,” Dorosy said of what has allowed her to be at her most productive when it has mattered the most.
“They give me great balls. If I don’t finish it, it’d be a disservice to them so I just try to do it for them.”
USC had just two first-half shots, but it made the most of them, opening the scoring against the run of play when substitute forward Penelope Hocking got behind the FSU defense and ripped a shot in the top netting in the 37th minute for her 14th goal of the season.
The Trojans took that 1-0 lead into the half, giving FSU a home deficit for the second straight match after the Seminoles trailed just twice in their first 13 home matches this season.
In the opening minutes, USC saw more of the possession, but it was the Seminoles who created the best chances early.
Junior forward Deyna Castellanos nearly put FSU on the board in the fourth minute when her point-blank shot was denied by Collins.
Freshman midfielder Yujie Zhao had the next major chance when her shot from the top of the 18-yard box was pushed into the post by Collins.
Castellanos again came close to opening the scoring in the 25th minute when her laser of a shot through traffic off a corner kick was again parried away by Collins.
In all, FSU finished the first half with 11 shots, but were kept off the board by Collins, who made five saves in the first half and finished regulation with nine saves, one off her career-high.
Dorosy nearly put the Seminoles ahead with another close-range shot in the 83rd minute that was denied by Collins.
It was USC, however, that had the best chance to win the match in regulation.
Hocking again found space in the box and went high again. Her shot was denied by the crossbar and cleared out before it could be made into another chance.
USC had the closest chance in overtime when Alea Hyatt hit the crossbar from distance early in the first overtime period.
In the closely-contested match, the Seminoles outshot the Trojans 21 to 12 and had 10 shots on target to USC’s four.
With the win, FSU improves to 44-1 all-time at home in the NCAA Tournament.