Tonight’s women’s soccer NCAA Tournament semifinal matchup between the University of Virginia and Florida State will be the third time the ACC rivals have met in the NCAA Tournament. Florida State won the two previous meetings, including the 2014 National Championship game. Will the third time be the charm for the Hoos?
Head coach Steve Swanson, who is hoping to lead UVA to its first ever national title, knows defeating the tournament’s top seed will be a tough challenge.
“They’re a very complete team, meaning they attack very well, they possess the ball very well, but they’re not just a possession-oriented team. I think they penetrate quite well,” Swanson said of Florida State, who UVA takes on at WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary, N.C.). The game is set to start at 6 p.m. EST and will be televised by ESPN2.
“Then they’re very good defensively,” Swanson continued. “I don’t think they get enough credit for how strong they are defensively. They’ve got a lot of very good athletes. They press really well.”
The 2020-21 season schedule has included fall and spring regular season games thanks to the worldwide pandemic. Virginia and Florida State played last fall, with the Seminoles taking a 4-3 victory. In that game the Hoos rallied from 3-1 deficit to notch a 3-3 tie, only to see FSU escape with a win thanks to a goal late in regulation.
“The games in the past we’ve had in the past with them have always been hard-fought games,” Swanson said. Florida State holds a 3-2 edge in the past five games between the two teams. “Usually comes down to a play or two. One of the things our team did well in that first [game last October] was we just hung in there and managed to get back in the game.”
“We lost it late, but I think there was a lot of positives out of that game,” Swanson added.
The Cavaliers were opportunistic in the October matchup, converting three goals in just six shots. UVA was able to capitalize in transition, something Swanson feels will be important in tonight’s rematch.
“I think we were able to get a couple of transition goals against them,” Swanson said. “One was off a PK but it came from transition. And so, the thing about Florida State, they possess the ball a lot and they’re used to possessing in small areas against teams, but that also means they have to defend a bigger area and I think for us probably one of the keys is how can we hit them in transition and take advantage of the time that we do have the ball in the space that we can get. That’s always been the biggest challenge with them.”
“For us, I think it’s picking and choosing our moments and seeing if we can get at them if the opportunity presents itself, but also making sure we’re organized and compact at the back because they’re so good in every facet,” Swanson said.
Virginia, the lone unseeded team in this year’s College Cup, played only four games in the spring season, which began in February and ended in April. The final two games came against a tough West Virginia team. The Mountaineers defeated UVA 1-0 on April 3, and the two teams tied in the rematch on April 10.
The series versus West Virginia, which earned the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament but was upset by Rice in the second round, “really helped us,” Swanson said. “We kind of got a barometer of where we are and what we needed to work on, as only games can do. Once we had those two games under our belt, we had a little better sense of what we needed to do. I felt our team really responded in the last month prior to the NCAA Tournament.”
“I think we felt if we could get a little momentum within the tournament that we could have a good showing,” Swanson added.
Virginia defeated SIUE, No. 12 seed BYU, Rice and No. 4 seed TCU on its march to the College Cup, surrendering only one goal while scoring nine. The Hoos are led by United Soccer Coaches Division 1 Women’s All-Atlantic Region First Team selections Diana Ordonez (F, Soph), Alexa Spaanstra (F, Jr) and Lia Godfrey (M, Fr). Ordonez (12 goals overall, three in the NCAAT) and Spaanstra (10 goals overall, four in the NCAAT) are UVA’s top goal scorers this season, while Godfrey earned ACC Freshman of the Year honors last fall. The unbeaten Seminoles had four players make the All-Region First Team (defenders Malia Berkely and Emily Madril, midfielders Jaelin Howell and Yujie Zhao) and another (keeper Cristina Roque) make the Second Team.
Highlights: UVA’s Run To The College Cup
Round 1 Victory Over SIUE, 3-1
Round 2 Victory Over BYU, 2-0
Round 3 Victory Over Rice, 3-0
Quarterfinal Victory Over TCU, 1-0