CARY, N.C. – Florida State’s bid to win a second straight ACC women’s soccer championship was halted Friday by the Virginia Cavaliers.
Just like a regular season meeting less than a month ago, a match between the No. 5 Seminoles and the No. 1 ‘Hoos would need extra time to decide a winner. In the 96th minute, Rebecca Jarrett – with an FSU defender draped all over her – found the back of the net with a left-footed strike to give Virginia a 2-1 victory on a chilly afternoon at WakeMed Soccer Park in the semifinals of the ACC tournament.
“Wild game. I thought we competed very hard,” Virginia head coach Steve Swanson said. “Obviously, two good teams going at it and I think there were ebbs and flows in the game. We find a way to win. I’m proud of our players.”
Serving up the assist on Jarrett’s Golden Goal winner was midfielder Alexa Spaanstra, who also dished an assist to Zoe Morse in the 67th minute for Virginia’s first goal of the day. Jarrett’s score not only won the game, but kept the Cavaliers’ unbeaten streak alive.
“Honestly, I don’t remember,” Jarrett said of her goal, her fifth of the season. “Somehow it came to me and I took one touch and just hit it with my left foot and it ended up in the goal. When it fell near me, I knew I had to do something to get that win for our team.”
Much of the first half between Virginia (16-0-3) and Florida State (15-5-0) was played in the midfield, with each side struggling to get past the other’s defense. There was just three shots and five corner kicks between the two teams, and only one shot – from Virginia’s Meghan McCool – landed on-frame, forcing FSU’s Caroline Jeffers into a save just seven minutes into the match. The Seminoles wouldn’t force Virginia’s Laurel Ivory into a save until the 53rd minute.
To get on the scoreboard, Virginia turned to an unlikely hero. Morse is not a goal-scorer by any means, scoring just three times over her previous 81 starts at Virginia.
But in the 67th minute, the 5-foot-9 senior from East Lansing, Michigan was in the right place at the right time to give the ‘Hoos an advantage. Morse’s score came after a bombardment of failed attempts by Virginia as two corner kicks from Taryn Torres in the 65th and 66th minutes couldn’t find the back of the net, and then Diana Ordonez and Spaanstra each had shots blocked. Then, on Virginia’s next corner kick – their sixth of the night – Spaanstra’s service found Morse’s noggin and she tucked the shot inside the far post.
“We knew we wanted to pack the six-yard box on corner kicks and we thought that was a place where we could get some dangerous chances. I knew my job was just to – if the ball comes to any part of my body – get into the goal. It happened to come to my head and I don’t really remember what happened exactly, but it went in the back of the net and that was just ecstasy. It was a great feeling.”
It was Morse’s first goal of the year and just the second time this season she had been involved in a score, as she provided her lone assist of the season in a win over Boston College. Morse is a team captain and also leads the ‘Hoos in minutes played this season.
The defender also helped Virginia form a formidable back-line Friday that frustrated Florida State’s typically explosive attack, led by senior Deyna Castellanos.
“Those were two pretty good teams out there playing and competing and Virginia made the extra play to win the game, so congratulations to them,” FSU head coach Mark Krikorian said. “They’re a very-well coached team and they have a lot of really good players. Against good teams, it’s going to come down to that one special moment. They had two, we had one. Credit to them.”
Florida State would equalize with a corner kick of their own though. In the 82nd minute as Jaelin Howell redirected service from Castellanos to Kristen McFarland, who knocked the ball into the back of the net for her fifth goal of the season. It was the 10th assist of the year for Castellanos.
The Seminoles had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Castellanos put her attempt from an indirect free kick just over the bar with 17 seconds left to play.
Extra time began with controversy as the referee gave a red card to Virginia’s Alissa Gorzak for a foul on Florida State’s keeper. However, after a VAR review, the card was rescinded. Virginia scored the game-winner just moments later.
“They said that when they looked at it closely there was more simultaneous contact as opposed to a bit of a late hit,” Krikorian said. “I have absolutely no idea. The video will tell us all the truth and we hope that the referee gets it right.”
Virginia moves on the ACC tournament final on Sunday, where the winner of North Carolina and N.C. State will await them. Florida State will head back to Tallahassee and do a whole lot of nothing until Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET, when the NCAA tournament field is revealed.
“Rest. I can tell you, we’re going to go back to Tallahassee and they’re not going to see me for a while,” Krikorian said. “We’re going to give them the good break they need and deserve. When that NCAA tournament draw comes out, we’ll make sure we’re well-rested.”