CARY, N.C. – Appearances can be deceiving.
Look just at the win-loss column, and Friday's first women's College Cup semi-final matchup between Florida State and Virginia Tech probably seems to be a mismatch. Twice so far this year, the two teams have played in Atlantic Coast Conference competition, and twice the Seminoles have overcome the Hokies.Both games were close -- 2-1 in Blacksburg on Oct. 24, and then 1-0 Nov. 10 in the ACC tournament final at WakeMed Park here in Cary. That kind of thing can happen most any year. Catch a bad break here or there, and that’s the way it can play out.
However, there’s more to the story. Florida State has 13 wins and a tie in 14 previous meetings with Virginia Tech. The Seminoles have reeled off seven consecutive victories since the teams played to a 0-0 tie in the 2008 ACC quarterfinals.
All time, Florida State has outscored Virginia Tech 23-4, with 10 shutouts and five in the past six meetings.
“I don’t think our group is overconfident,” Mark Krikorian, Florida State’s head coach said. “Our group has a great deal of respect for Virginia Tech. Anyone that’s getting to this stage of the season is certainly worthy and capable of winning this tournament. We certainly won’t take Virginia Tech lightly.”
While this may be the Hokies’ first appearance in the College Cup, they’re not happy just to be here. Virginia Tech is not about to concede anything to its ACC conference rival.
“I feel like we’ve had a couple of very good games with them,” Chugger Adair, Virginia Tech’s head coach, said. “We had a game that was probably better in Blacksburg in the regular conference season than the ACC final. Both games could’ve went either way.
“They were tightly contested, and I think our girls have done a good job. I think we could fine tune a few things from both matches. We’ve definitely got to be aware of their ability to score goals and possess the ball, but we’ve got our own ability to possess and score goals as well.”
Florida State has certainly been scoring goals in the school’s march to the College Cup. The ‘Noles have outscored opponents 16-1 in four games so far in the NCAA tournament, a streak that includes three shutouts.
Yet while the team has been to the past three College Cups and seven times since 2003, the school has never won a national championship in women’s soccer. That’s the most important stat of them all.
Like Virginia Tech, Florida State isn’t going to be content with just another College Cup appearance.
“Certainly, having been here helps,” Krikorian said. “We’ve had the opportunity to play in a few College Cups, but it’s also a different team. It’s a different set of circumstances. I hope that we can look back at the experiences we’ve had previously and use those in a positive way to help us succeed (against Virginia Tech).
“The best part of it for us is we’re peaking at the right time. We’re playing our best soccer now. If we can continue to play at that elite level, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Florida State is very much a possession-oriented team, and Adair and his players know it.
“They’ve very well balanced,” Adair said. “They’ve got good players in all positions who are comfortable with the ball at their feet.”
“I think we need to work on keeping the ball,” added Jazmine Reeves, a senior forward for Virginia Tech. “They’re very organized defensively. I think we just need to make sure we keep the ball and don’t panic, maybe, when we have it. I think, also, we just need to defend as a team.”
The Seminoles have a smothering defense, allowing just 13 goals through 26 games. That’s another thing Virginia Tech has to take into account.
“Individually, they have good defenders,” Reeves said. “As a team, they’re very organized. They work hard together, and they’re very physical. They’re athletic. A lot of those things go into them being great as a team, not just their backline, but their midfield as well. Individually, they’re great, but as a team, they work even better together.”
The very last thing Krikorian wants to do is have his team take Virginia Tech lightly. The Hokies have some quality, attacking athletes up front at forward, Krikorian said, with forwards Reeves and Murielle Tiernan starting and Shannon Mayrose coming off the bench.
“I think Chugger has built a very good team,” Krikorian said. “When I look at their group collectively, they’re outstanding. Their defending is really good. Their goalkeeping is quite good. There’s no real weakness in their team.
“We’re going to talk about concentration. We’re going to talk about making sure that we stay mentally focused through the course of the game, and make sure we are limiting free kicks by them. They’re quite good set pieces as well.”