Nov. 4, 2006
Cary, NC - For Florida State's six year senior goalkeeper Ali Mims Friday night's ACC semi-final versus Wake Forest was déjà vu all over again. While nobody else on the team or coaching staff was here in 2001, that season Mims put together one of the most memorable goalkeeping performances in FSU history saving three Virginia PK's sending Florida State to the school's first ever ACC Championship game. Five years later FSU once again went to PK's in another 0-0 game at the ACC semi-final and Mims came up with another penalty kick save as Florida State (14-2-4) advanced past Wake Forest (15-5-1) 4-2 in the shootout to face No. 1 North Carolina for the ACC Title Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
"It feels like I have been here before," said Mims. "I had a feeling once we went into the second overtime and the clock was winding down that this may go into PK's. I hate PK's but thought about it. I have been in this situation before. I needed to do whatever I could. Coach gave me a good strategy and I just tried to stick to that. I saved one and that was all it took thanks to some clutch performances by our shooters."
"She was fantastic," said FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian of Mims' performance. "I thought she was very good all night. She was solid and did a good job in the penalties. She did what she needed to do to get the result."
Florida State will play in the ACC Title game for the third time in the last six years, second only to North Carolina over that span. The Seminoles have lost both of their title game appearances to the Tar Heels dropping a 4-0 result in 2001 and a 3-2 game in 2003, the closest ACC Title game in 15 years up to that point.
"Winning an ACC Championship is something we have been striving for," said Mims. "We haven't been here since 2003 and I haven't played in an ACC Title game since 2001. Out of any year, this would be the year the seniors would love to accomplish that goal for FSU soccer."
"I am really excited," said Mami Yamaguchi. "Carolina is the best team. We get to play in the final of the ACC Tournament after losing in the semi-finals versus Virginia last year. We have a great opportunity to test ourselves against the best team. I am really excited. We need to take care of our bodies and try to be ready for a big challenge."
Yamaguchi was the hero for Florida State Friday night. After the Seminoles missed the first PK in the shootout, Mims made a save and then Wake missed their second shot. Katrin Schmidt, Becky Edwards and Libby Gianeskis all converted leaving FSU up 3-2 with one kicker left for each team. Yamaguchi stepped to the line and buried the PK past new Demon Deacon keeper Kaitlyn Doe to send FSU through.
"I wasn't nervous because we practiced PK's before we came to the tournament," said Yamaguchi. "We tried to look at this just like practice. Ali made a great save and then another Wake player missed so we had the advantage. I just went up there with confidence."
"Mami is as technical as it gets," said Krikorian. "She is able to use that technique at different times. On the penalty she took it well. She is wonderful with the ball and showed her composure and technique on the penalty."
Overall, both teams had their opportunities to win the match in regulation and in overtime. The 110-minute game was much like a title fight with both teams controlling play and creating some chances at times. While FSU held a slight statistical advantage in the first half, Wake controlled the possession but it was FSU that had the best chances on goal.
Just five minutes in Florida State almost scored what could have been the game-winning goal. On a free kick that was cleared out to the top of the 18, a Wake defender made a mistake playing the ball back into the middle of the box where Katrin Schmidt was all alone with starting keeper Laura Morse. Schmidt took her shot but put it right back at Morse.
Kelly Rowland had a close miss in the 18th minute. After a nice break by the Seminoles, Rowland got the ball at the top of the box on the right side. The senior drove a shot through the Wake Forest defense, including between one player's legs, forcing a diving save by Morse at the backpost.
With 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Florida State had another close miss. Gianeskis fed a ball inside the box to Yamaguchi. The ball went off a Deacon defender and came back to Yamaguchi. She drove a left-footed shot wide of the backpost.
With just eight minutes remaining in the half Selin Kuralay generated the best chance for either team. The All-ACC first team selection showed individual brilliance inside the box on the left hand side. She stepped over the ball a few times, took on the defenders and fired a shot to the backpost that caught the frame and bounced out to the corner flag.
In the second half FSU continued to create opportunities but it was Wake Forest that dominated the stats. The Deacons out-shot Florida State 13-2 and put six of those shots on frame but Ali Mims continued to be up to the task as the offense countered looking for the first goal but was continually hampered by 10 offsides call, six of which came after the half.
The best chances for both teams came with in a couple minute span about 18 minutes into the second half. Florida State had the first opportunity. Kuralay played a great bent ball behind the defense to Yamaguchi. Morse charged out trying to beat her to the pass. The two both reached the loose ball at the same time. The collision sent the ball backwards towards an empty Wake Forest net but high in the air. Morse charged back as Yamaguchi chased the ball and jumped over the Seminoles' back to punch it away before it could be finished.
A minute later Wake had a flurry inside the Seminole box that almost put an end the FSU's title hopes if it weren't for Mims coming up with two huge saves. The senior keeper charged out to cut down the angle on the first shot that was taken from about 12 yards out. Mims made the save but was unable to hold on to the rebound. Wake Forest got control of the loose ball and once again fired a shot inside the box but Mims recovered in time to make another big save from close range.
"I lost the first shot in the lights," said Mims of the sequence. "I kind of had to get my hand in front of it and bat it away. It dropped down right in front of the Wake player. She shot it back and I just tried to be as big as possible. It wasn't pretty but they didn't score. Obviously that was a big moment in the match."
In the 90th minute FSU had one last great chance to end the game in dramatic fashion. Kuralay lofted a ball over the top of the backline to Rowland. The midfielder was once again chasing a ball at the top of the 18 trying to get there before a charging Morse but once again the Wake goalkeeper won the foot race and cleared it out of danger.
If the first half went to FSU and the second to Wake, the two overtimes belonged to the Seminoles as FSU created the three best chances of the OT. Two minutes into extra time India Trotter played a perfect ball into the middle of the box where Yamaguchi was all alone, dead center about 15 yards out. The sophomore fired but missed the ball as it rolled through the box and out of danger.
Two minutes after that a long throw-in was cleared out by Wake to the far side of the field. Yamaguchi had another chance and this time she connected firing back the other way but missing the goal by inches.
Just a minute in to the final period FSU had another golden chance to get a golden goal. This time a long ball was played up to Trotter between two Wake Forest defenders. The ball bounced between them and Trotter split the pair. She had to slide to get the shot off as Morse was charging. The keeper did just enough to influence Trotter's shot that went wide of the frame.
"Overall it was pretty good," said Krikorian of the game. "Our defending again was pretty good. I thought we created enough chances during the run of play that we could have scored a goal or two. Credit Wake's goalkeeper for playing off the line and doing a good job in that regard. They played hard tonight. I thought they were good."
The Seminoles will now face North Carolina for the second time this season, the fourth time in the last two years and the 20th time in 12 seasons. Earlier this season the Tar Heels downed FSU 2-1 in Chapel Hill. The last time the two teams met in the postseason was 2005 when Florida State advanced past North Carolina and into the teams second-ever College Cup in a shootout following a 1-1 tie. Carolina has won 16 ACC Championships, the last time they did not capture the conference crown was in 2004 when they tied Virginia and fell in a shootout.
"It is nice to play in the championship," said Krikorian. "It is a lot of games in a short span and would love a little more rest before having to face North Carolina. We will go out and do battle. I am sure it will be an intense, physical, competitive game."
The ACC Championship game can be seen live in Tallahassee at 3:30 p.m. on SUN Sports. Live stats will also be available via GameTracker. For more information on how to follow the Seminoles, please log on to the official athletic website for Florida State University at Seminoles.com.