TALLAHASSEE, Fl. — The Florida State soccer team (18-5) advanced to the NCAA Elite 8 with a physical 2-1 win over the USF Bulls (16-5) in Tallahassee on Sunday afternoon.
“We were tested in a lot of ways today,” said head coach Mark Krikorian. “I thought our kids responded very well, especially after going down an early goal. We came out and were very composed throughout the 90 minutes and found a way to win the game.”
USF came out hot getting their first and only goal in the fifth minute. The goal came after three early fouls and on USF’s first of four shots in the game. Katie Kitching flicked one into the middle of the box to Aubrey Megrath who finished for her fifth goal of the season.
This was the 11th time this season that Florida State’s opponent scored first. It would also turn out to be the sixth time in 2019 that FSU would come back to win after surrendering the game’s first goal.
“I don’t think you can ever get comfortable going down by a goal,” said Krikorian. “Our players know with resilience we can come back. We have done it before. In the next round, we are certainly not trying to spot anyone a goal and then trying to work back.”
The Seminoles could not find the back of the net until the 45th minute when Jaelin Howell earned her fifth goal of the season coming off of a Heather Payne assist, her second. It was the Noles fifth shot of the game and came because of Payne's great hustle. After being challenged on the right side of the box, Payne regained control and passed it off to Howell right outside of the six-yard box. Howell redirected the ball for the equalizer.
“I knew that they would have the momentum going into the second half if we did not score a goal,” said Howell. “Getting the goal and the equalizer before the second half was huge and I thought that my teammates were composed and stayed composed throughout the first half in order to get that goal.”
There were two early fouls in the second half by USF before Brianna Blethen fouled Gabby Carle in the box to force a penalty kick. Deyna Castellanos stepped in to take the PK and buried it to give the Noles a 2-1 lead that they would go on to maintain for the rest of the game.
It was Castellanos's 12th goal of the season and 20th career game-winning goal, giving her the most in program history. Castellanos now has 48 career goals and 118 career points, both second all-time at Florida State.
“It is always great to win,” said Castellanos. “Today we had a very good game collectively and followed the game plan.”
Florida State would dominate on the offensive side of the ball outshooting USF 16-4 with 10 corner kicks to USF’s zero. USF set a season-high for fouls with 29 to go along with six yellow cards on the afternoon.
The Seminoles are home for one more NCAA Tournament game next Friday, November 29 with a spot in the College Cup on the Line. Florida State will host the winner No. 2 seed UCLA and No. 3 seed Wisconsin.
Florida State has played both teams this season with a 1-0 win over Wisconsin at home in overtime. The Garnet and Gold fell 2-1 to UCLA in the second week of the season out in Los Angeles.