Soccer clash: Teams square off in women’s semis
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Florida State women’s soccer team has been here before, now the Seminoles are hoping for a different result this weekend: their first NCAA College Cup title.
This is FSU’s fourth consecutive trip — and eighth overall appearance — to the College Cup. The Seminoles’ best result in the in the past four years was reaching the 2013 final, where they lost to UCLA.
FSU (22-1-1) will square off in on of Friday’s semifinal matches Stanford (20-1-3), which won the Women’s College Cup title in 2011.
The other semifinal pits Virginia (22-2-0) against Texas A&M (22-2-2). The Cavaliers are making their second consecutive, and third overall, appearance in the Final Four; the Aggies are making their first appearance.
The Seminoles have played the role of bridesmaid recently, losing to UCLA 1-0 in the championship game last year, in overtime in semis to Penn State in 2012, and a semifinal defeat to Stanford in 2011.
But Florida State coach Mark Krikorian believes past failures will have no bearing on this weekend’s outcome.
“We’re good enough that we can win,” Krikorian said. “In the past we weren’t good enough. The past can only serve to be a positive experience for us.”
The Seminoles are banking on having a home turf advantage with matches being held at Florida Atlantic University this weekend.
“I think we’re thrilled to be playing here,” Krikorian said. “We know there are a lot of Seminoles out here. Every other time we’ve played in the Final Four we’ve been visitors.”
The Seminoles, who scored an overall 14 goals heading into Friday’s semifinals, didn’t allow a goal through the quarterfinals.
Among this year’s Final Four, Stanford is the only team to have won the Women’s College Cup.
Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe doesn’t consider being past champions — even with some players from that title team still on the field — an obvious advantage.
“I’m not a big believer in (history helping) too much,” Ratcliffe said. “It all comes down to this team. We have to stay focus and have that drive and composure this year.”
Last year, the Cardinal failed to reach the Final Four, ending their journey in the third round.
“Obviously it’s exciting to come back to the College Cup because it became routine for us and the highlight of our season,” Ratcliffe said. “I think we had more hunger this year than we had in our prior year.”
Virginia arrived in South Florida off of a 2-1 victory over the reigning champion UCLA in the quarterfinals. Virginia’s quarterfinal win last week was retribution for a disheartening College Cup semifinal loss to UCLA last year — tied at 1-1, the Bruins took the 2013 semifinal 4-2 in penalty kicks.
“Certainly it gives us confidence, but I think the biggest thing for us to remember is that that was a big game for us last week and we have another big game this week,” said Virginia coach Steve Swanson. “I think we’ve prepared well for this one as well.”
Texas A&M is looking to become only the third team (Florida 1998 and USC 2007) to win the title in its first appearance in the Final Four.
“The team is very excited about the opportunity in front of us to take the next step in this tournament,” said Texas A&M coach G Guerrieri. “This has been a really special team for us. This is a team that is accustomed to winning.”