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Maturity, championship experience could give FSU edge in title game

The Florida State soccer team knows what it takes to get to the College Cup. And win the national championship. There’s tremendous value in having veterans, including fifth-year seniors. But also in having players who were a part of the 2018 national title team — there are nine players on the 2020-21 roster who are juniors or seniors.

“It’s a really, really mature team,” FSU coach Mark Krikorian said. “And some of these fifth-year kids, they just bring a different element to it. And even when we weren’t playing our best against Virginia, the kids didn’t get rattled, they continued to just stay the course and hang in there. … We do have a mature team and a group of older players that have experienced a lot of things and they’ve done a very good job of bringing the younger players along as well. So that’s also part of it. Making sure the young kids understand what the expectations are, what the demands are.”

FSU (13-0-2) has a chance to capture its third national title — and all of them inside a seven-year window — with a win over Santa Clara on Monday at 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2) at Cary, N.C. The Seminoles have been challenged at each step in the NCAA Tournament, including a pair of penalty kick shootout wins over Duke and Virginia.

Freshman goalkeeper Cristina Roque has allowed only one goal in the first four games of the NCAA Tournament and has recorded three saves in shootouts. Roque saved Duke’s first attempt helping the Seminoles advance 5-3. Against Virginia, Roque shined on the brightest stage of her career, earning two saves against the Cavaliers as FSU advanced 3-0 on PKs.

FSU takes on Santa Clara (10-1), which has knocked off Clemson and North Carolina in its last two games to get to the title game.

“They’ve showed a couple of our ACC friends what that level is,” Krikorian said. “They have some really good, attacking players. And we’re going to have to be conscious of that from the start. I was so impressed with their athleticism and their commitment to go and compete, their quality with the ball.”

FSU has experience in big-game situations — from the 2018 run to the title for many of the veterans to this fall’s push for the ACC tournament title to the spring NCAA Tournament. Krikorian thinks the Seminoles will have the right mindset, acknowledging the situation and the pressure but not letting it consume their preparation and attitude on game day.

“Obviously, it’s a big game on the biggest stage that we have in college soccer,” Krikorian said. “But we can’t make too big of an issue out of it. We need to just continue to have the habits that we’ve established over the course of the year and the years. And go into it with the mindset that if we all do our job, we give ourselves a much better chance to win. But if we get caught up into worrying about the moment or the stage that we’re playing on, probably that stage can appear to be too big. And we need to just continue to do things in a similar fashion to how we’ve done.”

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