CARY, N.C. -- Expecting the finale of the 2013 Women’s College Cup to even come close to matching the palpable heart-stopping excitement of the two semi-final games would be too much to ask.
Wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it?
Florida State got by Virginia Tech 3-2 in the first, while UCLA topped Virginia 4-2 on penalty kicks after slugging it out to a tough 1-1 draw in double overtime.
As thrilling as it had been to watch from the outside looking in, there were few smiles on the faces of Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian, midfielder Jamia Fields and defender Megan Campbell before, during and after their post-game press conference. None of them were sullen and they obviously weren’t sad, but that’s just the thing. They conveyed little or no emotion one way or the other.Nobody would’ve guessed that they had actually won the game to advance into Sunday’s final. Maybe it was because of just how close the game had been. Virginia Tech’s Ashley Meier tied the game at 2-2 with less than 12 minutes remaining, but then Fields’ goal put Florida State back on top four minutes later.
Even that, however, did not tell the full story of this game.
Maybe it was because the team had just given up as many as two goals for just the second time all year. Maybe it was because the Hokies’ Jazmine Reeves had rocketed two shots off the Florida State goalpost in the second half, the second with a little more than a minute to go in the game. A mere inch or so to the inside of the goal, and it would have been a completely different contest.
That could have been part of it, but this might be the best way to describe their expressions. The coach and his two players were very businesslike. That’s it. The ‘Noles have all kinds of unfinished business in the Women’s College Cup. Although the school has been to seven since 2003, including each of the past three, in it has never won a national championship.
So, no, there’s probably not going to be a whole lot of grinning and laughter until they’re finally able to seal the deal.
“The emotion has probably been expended at this point,” Krikorian said, who is in his ninth season at the Florida State helm. “I think that all of us … we’re single-minded and we’re focused. The goal is to get to Sunday, which now we’ve done, and then to win on Sunday. I think anything short of that will be a disappointment for all of us. I don’t think you’re going to see a whole lot of celebrating until Sunday if we’re able to finally get it done.”
Krikorian started out his remarks by saying that it had not been a pretty game for Florida State. Virginia Tech, he said, had “absolutely” taken his squad out of its game plan.
And in that, UCLA might be able to find an opening come Sunday.
“I was concerned about the way we were playing,” Krikorian said. “I thought that we didn’t do as well as we could’ve in splitting the wide space. That’s what we talked an awful lot at halftime, and I’m not sure we did a great job in the second half of that.”
Later, he added, “I thought that they broke the rhythm of our play very well. I thought through the course of the game there were moments when we probably should’ve passed the ball a little bit quicker and found that wide space. We held on, and I think it led to an awful lot of tackles and us having to go to the ground and them having to go to the ground. It was more physical play than beautiful soccer.”
UCLA had its own incredibly physical game to play on Friday against Virginia, finishing 90 minutes of regulation play and then two 10-minute overtimes knotted at 1-1. The Bruins’ goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland then came up big with a couple of blocked penalty shots, while teammates Sarah Killion, Sam Mewis, Lauren Kaskie and finally Rosie White all scored to put UCLA over the top.
As long and as hard as UCLA had to play Friday night, head coach Amanda Cromwell and the Bruins faced another tough test Sunday. Not only they up against Krikorian and the Seminoles, the weather forecast is for a seventy percent chance of rain and temperatures that won’t top the high 30s all day.
The first order of business in getting ready for Florida State was to recover from its battle with Virginia.
“We start recovering right after the game by stretching,” Cromwell said. “So, really, that’s where the preparation starts. Especially in a game that goes into overtime, our legs are going to be a little more tired, but our depth is something that’s really helped us all year long. So we count on that. Tomorrow, we’ll do a bit of recovery and have the non-starters play a little bit to keep their touch and their form.”
This is Cromwell’s first year with UCLA, after making the long trek west from a 14-year stint with Central Florida. While there, she became well familiar with Florida State’s style of play. Bruins assistant coach Josh Walters, who made the long trek west with Cromwell from Central Florida, served as the director of soccer operations for Florida State from 2010-2012.
They know the ‘Noles, know how they attack, how they defend, how they play the game of soccer. Come Sunday, the college women’s soccer world will find out just how much that familiarity meant.
“It’s funny we’re playing Florida State, coming from UCF,” she continued. “We played them many times, every season basically, for the last 14 years when I was at UCF. I’m very familiar with that team. We will have the knowledge we need to have a good game plan.”
Like Florida State, UCLA has been to the Women’s College Cup many times only to come up short. In nine appearances, the Bruins have zero women’s soccer national titles.
“One of the things I said to them in pregame is that not only does this team deserve to win a national championship, this program deserves to win a national championship,” Cromwell said. “I think these girls have that feeling – they’re playing for more than just themselves. That’s really cool. The way they play, you can tell how much this team unites together and plays for each other.”