ACC Champs! Women’s soccer claims third consecutive title

2015 ACC Champs! Women's soccer
2015 ACC Champions

Fourth-ranked Florida State claimed its third consecutive ACC Championship with a penalty shootout victory over No. 1 Virginia Sunday in Cary, N.C. The Seminoles topped the Cavaliers, 7-6, in penalty kicks after the two teams battled to a 2-2 draw after two overtime periods.

Berglind Thorvaldsdottir’s PK conversion secured FSU’s fourth ACC Tournament title.

“We looked at this as a very challenging weekend, it wasn’t just about today,” said FSU head coach Mark Krikorian. “We know Virginia is an excellent team and we saw that today. We came out here and battled hard. The goal was to compete and give ourselves a chance in the end, and I think we did that.”

It was the sixth straight match against Virginia that was decided by one goal, dating back to 2013, with three 1-0 victories by the Seminoles and two 1-0 wins by the Cavaliers. It was also the first overtime match in the ACC final since 2011 when Florida State and Wake Forest played to a 1-1 draw and the Noles won the title on PKs, 3-1.

“Virginia is an excellent program,” Krikorian said. “(Coach Swanson) and his staff do a great job with their kids and they are going to make a heck of a run in the NCAA Tournament. Who knows, maybe we’ll see these guys again.”

Florida State placed four players on the 2015 ACC All-Tournament Team – Cheyna Williams, Megan Connolly, Kirsten Crowley, and ACC Tournament MVP Natalia Kuikka.

Virginia had two quality chances from Makenzy Doniak in the early going as she had a shot in the 7th minute that was saved by FSU’s Cassie Miller, as well as a chance in the 10th minute where she made a run down the left and received a pass from Courtney Petersen to create a one-on-one opportunity. Her shot from 10 yards out sailed wide of the goal to the right.

The Seminoles opened the scoring in the 12th minute as Natalia Kuikka picked up a loose ball after an FSU pass was redirected by Virginia’s Doniak. Kuikka dribbled toward the top of the box and fired a shot near the left post and into the back of the net to give the Seminoles a 1-0 lead. It was the sixth goal of the season for Kuikka.

Virginia tied the game in the 32nd minute following a corner opportunity. When the initial corner kick was blocked away, UVA’s Tina Iordanou collected the ball out wide on the left and sent in a cross to Betsy Brandon.

Florida State wins its third consecutive ACC title.
Florida State wins its third consecutive ACC title.

Brandon’s header went toward the right post, but was saved away by the head of Michaela Hahn. The ball remained in the six-yard box and was headed by Doniak up and into the crossbar. It came right back to Doniak who headed it down into a group of Seminoles and Cavaliers in front of the goal line. Doniak stabbed in with her foot and poked the ball across the line to tie the match at, 1-1.

After the first 45 minutes, the match remained tied at 1-1 as Virginia held an 8-5 lead in shots and FSU led 4-3 in corner kicks.

The Seminoles took back the lead in the 55th minute on a play that looked much like Virginia’s goal earlier in the game. Carson Pickett sent in a corner kick that found Kirsten Crowley on the far post. Crowley’s header was on frame, but was blocked away at the lost moment.

Megan Campbell got her head on the rebound, but it could not get through the UVA defense, but it bounced back out to Crowley who kicked it home to give the Seminoles a 2-1 lead.

Virginia continued to battle and found the equalizer in the 67th minute off the foot of Doniak. Megan Cox had the ball out on the right and kicked it in to Veronica Latsko at the top of the box. Latsko slipped it to Doniak who kicked it past Miller to tie the game at 2-2.

After two scoreless 10 minute overtimes, the match would be determined on penalty kicks. Each team sent five players up for the kicks, and if the shootout remained tied, it moves to a sudden victory format.

Florida State sent Carson Pickett, Megan Connolly, Michaela Hahn, Megan Campbell and captain Kirsten Crowley out for the penalties and all five converted their shots. Virginia’s quintet of Kristen McNabb, Kalli Torres, Alexis Shaffer, Emily Sonnett and Makenzy Doniak also were perfect on their penalty kick attempts.

In the sudden victory portion, UVA’s Betsy Brandon and Cheyna Williams each scored on their attempt in the sixth round. Opening round seven, UVA’s Meghan Cox lined up a shot to the left that was stopped by FSU goalkeeper Cassie Miller, setting the stage for Berglind Thorvaldsdottir. The redshirt junior from Iceland struck a great ball into the back of the net to win the shootout and secure the ACC Championship.

Florida State earned the Atlantic Coast Conference’s automatic bid to the 2015 NCAA Tournament and will find out its place in the bracket during the NCAA Selection Show at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9. The Seminoles entered the weekend No. 1 in the NCAA RPI and ranked No. 4 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.