One team enters Friday as the most potent offense in the country. The other hasn’t allowed a home goal in nearly 1,200 minutes of home NCAA Tournament play.
Something’s got to give.
The No. 1 seed Florida State soccer team (16-4-2) returns to NCAA Tournament action Friday at 5 p.m. at the Seminole Soccer Complex when it welcomes in the USF Bulls (15-3-0) for a second-round matchup.
The Seminoles haven’t allowed a goal at home in the NCAA Tournament in 1,190 minutes and two seconds.
That streak will be tested by a USF team that enters Friday averaging 2.94 goals per match, the most among all Division-I schools.
“They’re a very good attacking team. Had a chance to watch a lot of video on them,” FSU head coach Mark Krikorian said.
“I think that they’re a balanced team, they’re very competitive. We actually played them in the spring here last year and it was a very good game, very competitive game. We know they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game and they’re going to come in here looking to compete at the highest level.”
The Seminoles are 8-0-1 all-time against the Bulls. Their last competitive matchup was a 2-1 FSU win in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
With 53 goals scored this season, USF’s attack has been multi-faceted. One player, however, has led the charge.
Junior forward Evelyne Viens is tied for the NCAA lead with 20 goals this season.
“That’s almost unheard of in the college game,” Krikorian said.
“But they’re more than a one-person team. They have very good midfield play, good defenders and their goalkeeper is more than six-feet tall and stands tall as well.”
Added senior defender Natalia Kuikka, “We have to as a defense and a whole team prepare for defending well and limit their chances.”
FSU, meanwhile, is among the best defensive teams in the nation this season. The Seminoles enter this weekend having allowed 11 goals in 22 matches this season. That average of 0.489 goals per match allowed is eighth-best in the country.
Teams have had the most success this season against FSU when bunkering in defense and playing on the counter-attack, but that may not play to the strength of USF’s attack.
However USF attempts to combat FSU, Krikorian believes his squad has been prepared for whatever style it has to face.
“We’re going to prepare for everything. They have the quality of being able to play in a counter-attack situation with their front kids, but they may also step high and press. They’ve shown the ability to do both,” Krikorian said.
“I think, again, our schedule has prepared us to play against whichever shape or whatever system or whatever mentality a team’s going to come out and play with and hopefully that’s true.”
The group of opposing teams FSU drew for this weekend looks to be the toughest in the country.
It’s the only region in which all four teams are ranked, with FSU at No. 5, USC at No. 6, LSU at No. 19 and USF at No. 20.
The winners of each of the two matches Friday will play Sunday at 1 p.m. with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line.
“This regional is pretty stacked,” Krikorian said.
“We have four good teams here that have all earned their way to this level of competition. We’re looking forward to it.”
Added midfielder Gloriana Villalobos, “It’s going to be tough. I think whoever we’re going to play this game is going to be tough.
“It’s not always a matter of talent. It’s sometimes the willing, how much you’re willing to give up to win. I think that’s what is important at this point in the tournament.”
No. 1 Florida State vs. USF
NCAA Tournament Second Round
When: Friday, 5 p.m.
Where: Seminole Soccer Complex
TV: WatchESPN (Online)
Tickets: Weekend package is $14 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for children 3-12; single-day tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for children