The degree of difficulty intensifies for the Florida State soccer team in the NCAA Tournament.
Following a 3-0 win over Milwaukee in FSU’s opener on Saturday, the Seminoles will next play Penn State on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in a third-round game (live stream on goheels.com). FSU had the benefit of a bye in the first round, one of the luxuries of being the tournament’s top seed, and coach Mark Krikorian said he was happy with the Seminoles’ first game.
“It was a professional performance,” Krikorian said. “Went out and controlled the game, didn’t give up a whole lot of chances at our goal. We were patient and thoughtful and smart in the way that the group played and took our chances when we got them. The Milwaukee team had a really good game plan and got a lot of numbers behind the ball and defended.”
Kristen McFarland had three assists in the fall but added her first goal of the 2020-21 season in the win over Milwaukee. Gabby Carle also scored off a Jenna Nighswonger corner kick and Jaelin Howell finished the scoring.
Now, the Seminoles face Penn State — the same team FSU defeated in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Penn State has played a Big Ten only schedule in 2021 but one that has kept the team active from mid-February through April in preparation for the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions (9-1) are led by Ally Schlegel (nine goals and five assists), Frankie Tagliaferri (six goals and nine assists), Sam Coffey (six goals and eight assists) and Payton Linnehan (four goals and five assists).
“They have a collective collection of attacking players that are really quite good,” Krikorian said. “Schlegel has shown a great ability to score goals. Really very, very good heading player as well and has to be accounted for in and around the box. They have two attacking midfield players that are top level, (Sam) Coffey and Frankie (Tagliaferri), two kids with national team experience and they play with experience and play with great understanding of the game. And we’re going to have to keep track of those kids.”
Krikorian has praised the maturity within a veteran roster and how they have endured through the challenges of the broken-up fall-spring season and trained through the spring exhibition season. Now they have settled in for what they are optimistic will be a long hotel stay in the controlled environment of the NCAA Tournament in Cary, N.C.
“The group has responded well to what we’re trying to do,” Krikorian said. “It is a lot of time in a hotel. It’s a lot of downtime. I think we’re on day five or day six, and we still have potentially a lot of days in front of us. But by and large, I think that our preparation going in was good. We’ll find out as this tournament unfolds whether it was good enough or not.
“By and large, our kids are doing a good job. It’s really a very relaxed bubble.”
Howell, Berkely honored
Jaelin Howell and Malia Berkely have been named MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalists as announced by the United Soccer Coaches and the Missouri Athletic Club on Tuesday afternoon. They are two of 15 semifinalists for the award.
Howell has started in all 12 games for the Seminoles this season as their starting holding midfielder. She has helped anchor a backline that has recorded eight shutouts in 12 games and has only allowed six goals all season. Howell has also made her presence known on the offensive end as she has scored five goals to go with a pair of assists.
Berkely started all 11 games in the fall for the Seminoles, helping them to their seventh ACC Tournament title. She anchored the defensive backline from her center-back position that held opponents to six goals in 11 games. The Seminoles recorded seven shutouts in the fall, including shutouts in the first four games of the season. Berkely signed professionally to play with the French club FC Girondins de Bordeaux in January.