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Virginia falls to Florida State in Women’s College Cup final, 1-0

Fields scores decisive goal in 83rd minute

<p>Senior midfielder Morgan Brian (6) concluded her standout collegiate career on Sunday. Junior defender Emily Sonnett (16) will be back next year. </p>

Senior midfielder Morgan Brian (6) concluded her standout collegiate career on Sunday. Junior defender Emily Sonnett (16) will be back next year.

If the Virginia women’s soccer team were Superman, Florida State would be its Kryptonite. The Cavaliers have dominated this season, outscoring their opponents 88-16. However, the Seminoles had gotten the best of them in both the regular season and the ACC Tournament.

Unfortunately for Virginia (23-3, 9-1 ACC), Sunday’s College Cup championship game—the first in program history—followed a similar script. Virginia, a historically prolific offensive juggernaut, ran into an extremely stifling Florida State (24-1-1) defense that had held opponents to just nine goals all year, and the Seminoles broke through very late to take home the 1-0 victory at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.

“I think they are very committed to [defense] from front to back,” coach Steve Swanson said. “I think they press a lot more than they did in previous years. They do that quite well. It is together. It is coordinated. They have a very strong backline as well. Like I said, they have got a good system and they have got good players.”

Although Virginia struggled with making any sort of impact in the first half, pushing across just two shots, neither on-goal, Florida State wasn’t particularly dominant either. The Seminoles took only eight shots over the course of the game, but it was one of their last that put them into dynastic conversation.

“Congrats to Florida State—to [coach] Mark [Krikorian] and his staff,” Swanson said. “I thought that they had a great year overall. It was a tough game for us, not much separating us. It was a great finish by [senior forward] Jamia [Fields]. It is just soccer, that is the way it goes sometimes.”

Fields has been one of Florida State’s most impactful players in her four years on the team and, in her last game in college, she scored possibly the biggest goal of her career. In the 83rd minute, she collected the ball at the top of the box on the right flank, shook her defender with a nifty move and fired a blistering left-footed shot past diving sophomore goalkeeper Morgan Stearns.

“I’m in that position at lot,” Fields said. “The ball was on my left foot when I cut inside. I took the chance and shot it and it went in. After the goal, I knew we were in a good spot and I knew we could win it.”

Although Virginia scraped together two chances in the final moments—both a strike from sophomore forward Morgan Reuther in the 88th minute and a header from freshman forward Veronica Latsko in the 89th sailed just over the goal—it wasn’t meant to be, and the Cavaliers fell to the Seminoles for the third time this season.

“They score[d] in the first two games that we played them pretty early,” senior midfielder Morgan Brian said. “When they did score against us early they were really good defensively, so it was hard for us to bounce back and equalize it. In this game, when they don’t score for 80 something minutes and you are going into the last 10 minutes of the game, it is really anybody’s game.”

Although the Cavaliers lost in the finale, they had a remarkable run in the tournament and unfortunately ran into one of the best teams in recent memory, which had an equally impressive tournament, shutting out every team on its road to the championship.

“Florida State is a great team,” junior forward Makenzy Doniak said. “Especially defensively obviously not allowing any goals. I think they do a great job with reading the other team’s pressure and that is what they did to us today.”

Doniak, who was one of four Cavaliers—along with Brian, junior defender Emily Sonnett and senior midfielder Danielle Colaprico—to be named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team, struggled throughout Sunday’s championship. Swanson made a tactical switch, playing Doniak as the lone forward instead of employing the two-forward formation so successful to this point, which led to fewer scoring chances and a weaker attack.

“Being the lone forward up there, it is crucial to have support, [and] at times we didn’t and we could have done better with that and held the ball a little better for our team,” Doniak said. “Overall for our team, we dealt with what we were given and the formation we were going to play them in. Like I said, we didn’t finish our chances.”

Although Sunday’s final was frustrating for the entire team, Swanson noted that, for the four graduating seniors, the achievements of the past four years have been truly extraordinary.

“They have had great careers,” Swanson said. “There is a lot of sadness now, but there is a lot of pride in what they have accomplished, what they have done and how they have conducted themselves. Sometimes you say it is not what you do and what championships you have been in but how you conduct yourselves, and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”

For Brian—who last Thursday was named U.S. Soccer’s Young Female Athlete of the Year—the end of her Virginia career marks just one step in what could be a historic career in soccer. She has already played in 16 games for her country, scoring three goals, and likely hasn’t come close to reaching her potential in an American uniform.

As for Colaprico, whose 19 assists ranked second in the nation this season, soccer likely won’t end with this heartbreaking loss. Having firmly established herself on the Under-23 Women’s National Team, she will likely be selected quite early in the next National Women’s Soccer League College Draft.

“I think these two to my left [Brian and Colaprico] are the best that have played at Virginia,” Swanson said.

While Swanson is losing two of the best players he has ever coached, the prospects for meeting the program’s goal of winning a national championship are bright. Doniak and fellow junior forward Brittany Ratcliffe combined for 30 goals this season, while sophomores Reuther and midfielder Alexis Shaffer combined for 39 points. Five of Virginia’s nine new players scored this year.

“It is a sad day for us because you don’t get to see those guys any more,” Swanson said. “But they have had great careers and they can be proud of all they have accomplished at Virginia.”