Virginia battles Florida State
Swanson enters ACC semifinal matchup against Seminoles seeking seventh consecutive triumph
The No. 5 Virginia women's soccer team looks to keep its momentum going tonight against No. 14 Florida State in the ACC Tournament semifinal.
The Cavaliers (14-3-2, 7-2-1 ACC) seek their seventh straight win and ride the longest current winning streak in the ACC. The team has unequivocally dominated its recent competitors, forcing five shutouts and outscoring opponents 16-3 during the stretch.
"I think this is the best Virginia team since I've been here," senior goalkeeper Chantel Jones said. "It feels really good. We're at the point that if we really want it we can just go out there and take it. It's a good feeling going into the tournament."
The win streak began with an overtime victory against the same Florida State team (13-6, 5-5 ACC) Oct. 8 - one of Virginia's five overtime games this season and the only overtime game where goals were also scored in regulation.
During that matchup, Virginia scored first but star Florida State junior forward Tiffany McCarty tied the game with three minutes remaining in the first half. The teams traded two more goals during the second half, and junior forward Caroline Miller ultimately sealed the 4-3 victory with a header during overtime.
The Seminoles have since recovered and now boast the second longest winning streak in the conference. Although it may seem tempting to plan tonight's game around a fearsome Florida State attack, Virginia coach Steve Swanson wants his team to focus on its own improvement.
"You have to be careful that you're not doing too much to the opponent and not enough to yourselves," Swanson said. "We came into the [Maryland] game with a lot of momentum, so it was about us: can we play better, can we attack better, can we defend better? ... We certainly have to look at Florida State's personnel but that's not going to change what we do day in and day out. That's just part of our philosophy: take care of the things we can control."
Both teams come off shutout victories during the tournament's opening round - Virginia against No. 16 Maryland and Florida State against No. 17 North Carolina. Virginia played a clean game against Maryland, allowing only one shot on goal, and Jones earned her 44th career shutout to tie the NCAA record.
Florida State, conversely, fought a long and grueling match against the Tar Heels and the game remained scoreless until junior forward Jessica Price scored a golden goal in the second overtime. Before this year, North Carolina had never been eliminated from the ACC tournament in any fashion other than penalty kicks.
In addition to devastating defenses, tonight's contest features the two top scoring offenses in the ACC, as well as the conference's top two individual scorers in Miller and McCarty. The two junior forwards both lead the ACC with 14 goals and 32 points, and both earned first team All-ACC honors. Virginia freshman midfielder Morgan Brian joins Miller on the first-team list and was also named ACC Freshman of the Year yesterday.
Virginia's 4-3 victory against Florida State also marked the largest goal total the team allowed all season, so the team anticipates a high-scoring game. A fast-paced semifinals game bodes well for a Cavalier team which is 11-1 this season in games with more than two goals scored.
"It's going to be a battle," sophomore forward Gloria Douglas said. "The ACC [Tournament] is always tough. The big thing for us is to score early, play hard and just play soccer. We need to make sure our speed of play is up to par. That will really work in our favor."
The game is slated for 7:30 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The winning team will face the winner of Duke vs. Wake Forest in the ACC championship Sunday. Both semifinal games will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the championship can be seen on ESPNU.