Mark Krikorian knew all along he had assembled a championship-caliber roster for the 2018 season. If he could just get them all healthy and back from international competition, there was no doubting the Florida State Seminoles could be a major force in the NCAA women’s soccer tournament.
Now, they’re just one victory from winning it all.
After stunning defending national champion Stanford on Friday, 2-0, FSU will take on rival North Carolina in the championship game today in Cary, N.C. (1 p.m. ET, ESPNU).
The Seminoles and Tar Heels have squared off twice already this season. North Carolina won the first meeting in Tallahassee, 1-0 on Sept. 14, while Florida State pulled off a 3-2 victory in the ACC championship game in early November.
The winner of the rubber match will be crowned 2018 National Champions.
“We’re very familiar with each other,” Krikorian told the team’s official website, Seminoles.com. “They had success winning the first time. We had success winning the second time. So now it’s a matter of us going and taking a look at some of the trends and tendencies of how the game has played out each of the first two times, looking at the ways we’ve improved, but also look at the way they’ve improved.”
It will be another major challenge.
While Stanford was thought by many experts to be just about unbeatable — the Cardinal had won 45 consecutive matches and had been the No. 1-ranked team all season — North Carolina has the richest tradition in all of collegiate soccer.
There have been 36 NCAA women’s soccer tournaments held since 1982, and North Carolina has won 22 of them. But Florida State is arguably the hottest team in the country.
Since getting his lineup back closer to full strength, Krikorian’s Seminoles have put together an amazing run, dating back to late October.
First, they knocked off No. 9 Duke, No. 12 Virginia and No. 3 North Carolina en route to winning the ACC championship.
Now, in the NCAA tournament, they have reeled off five more straight victories — including wins over No. 6 Southern Cal, No. 14 Penn State, No. 20 South Florida and, yes, No. 1 Stanford.
That’s seven victories against ranked opponents in the span of about five weeks.
And while Florida State does not have quite the same level of tradition as North Carolina — no other college soccer program does — the Seminoles will not be intimidated by the stage.
This will be Krikoran’s fourth trip to the championship game with a Florida State team — the Seminoles won it all in 2014 and finished runner-up in 2013 and 2007 — and several of his players compete frequently for their national teams.
“If we go out and play our game,” said sophomore defender/midfielder Malia Berkely, “follow the game plan and play like we have been playing – which has been very good – I think we’ll get the result we want.”