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FSU facing familiar foe in Duke, now a win away from College Cup

The Florida State soccer team will attempt to beat Duke for a third time this season on Sunday. But then again this has been anything but the typical soccer season.

FSU and Duke will face off on Sunday at 1 p.m. in an NCAA Tournament quarterfinal, with the winner earning a spot in the College Cup (soccer’s version of the Final Four).

“It was a really interesting attitude that a lot of people have,” FSU coach Mark Krikorian said. “And they chime in with ‘It’s a hard to beat somebody three times in a year or whatever.’ I think it’s hard to beat anybody one time, never mind twice and three times. But the other side to that is that if you’ve beaten a team a couple of times, sometimes they have a little bit of doubt on whether they can actually come back and beat you. So I think you can spin it whichever way you want. 

“A lot of our kids know their kids, shared time at different national team camps and so on. I can tell you we’re not taking them lightly. We’re going to be fully prepared for them. I would expect the same from them.”

FSU won both games by shutout, 1-0 in Tallahassee in October and 4-0 in an ACC Tournament semifinal in Cary, N.C., in November. The teams are of course back in Cary for the NCAA Tournament, a familiar setting for the teams. 

Krikorian said he felt Duke has had just a few lineup changes since then, while FSU is playing a similar lineup. The Seminoles lost Malia Berkely, who signed with a French club, and a backup goalkeeper but it’s otherwise the same FSU team that went 11-0 in the fall.

FSU knew the challenges would be tougher as the NCAA Tournament progressed. Penn State’s goal in the first half was a new wrinkle — the first time in the 2020-21 season the Seminoles have trailed. The Seminoles quickly tied the game before halftime and took a 3-1 win on Wednesday.

“I think it’s a fantastic sign,” Krikorian said. “You know that sometimes luck won’t be on your side and then the question is what sort of character do you have and how strong is your perseverance and what is your level of commitment to play hard and intelligent and selfless, to give yourself the chance to win? I thought our kids passed that test certainly in the game against Penn State.”

FSU has also seen a balanced scoring load, with Gabby Carle scoring twice (once in each NCAA Tournament game) along with goals by Kristen McFarland, Jaelin Howell, Kristina Lynch, Clara Robbins and Gabby Carle.

“That’s a big advantage to us,” Krikorian said. “You have to pay attention to the all of the players because any one of these kids, including the kids coming off the bench, can go and score a big goal for us. Oftentimes when a team is more one dimensional you can kind of zero in on that kid and take them away. I think with our group we have a lot of different weapons that come from a lot of different angles. They can score goals and it makes us probably a much better team.”