Nov. 5, 2006
CARY, N.C. - For the second time in the last three seasons Florida State and North Carolina played an epic ACC Tournament championship game. In 2003 the teams went back-and-forth in a 2-2 game before a UNC penalty kick in the 86th minute secured the title for the Heels. This season FSU and Carolina battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation before a 99th-minute overtime goal once again broke the hearts of the FSU faithful. It was the third time Florida State (14-3-4) fell to UNC (21-1-0) in the ACC title game in the last six years and it was the first overtime loss for Florida State since 2002.
"It was a great game today," said FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian. "These are two pretty good teams. Both brought their `A' games and got after each other. Credit to Carolina for the way they played and winning the game. I am as proud as I can be of my team. We battled hard for the duration of the game. We created enough chances and maybe with a little more luck we would have scored a second goal. We didn't do that and Carolina did. Credit them. We gave ourselves a chance to win and that was what we were looking for."
"It was a typical Florida State/North Carolina game and that is what we thought it would be," said All-ACC Tournament goalkeeper Ali Mims. "They do a very good job of defending their title. Being on this team for three ACC finals, it is an honor to be in that position but we want to eventually get past Carolina and win this thing."
Despite taking a lead on the Tar Heels, Florida State was unable to hold on for long. India Trotter scored in the fourth straight game for FSU versus UNC just over five minutes out of half. Less than seven minutes later though the Heels scored the goal that would eventually force OT.
"We didn't feel that way," said Krikorian when asked if he felt his team might hold on for the win after going up 1-0. "We knew during the course of the game we would get our chances and they would get their chances. The reality of it is we weren't efficient enough on the chances we had. If you don't finish the chances you have, you are not going to win the game. Especially versus North Carolina you have to take advantage of the opportunities you get."
With just 1:42 remaining in the first overtime Carolina struck as Elizabeth Guess secured the 18th ACC Championship for North Carolina in 20 seasons. It was the sixth overtime game for Florida State in 2006 and just the first loss in any of those games. The last time Florida State lost in overtime was October 12, 2002 versus Wake Forest. Overall, it was just the fifth OT loss for Florida State in 38 all-time OT matches.
"Being golden goal, once that ball crosses the line the game is over," said Mims. "Fortunately we have not suffered an OT loss since 2002. That is a testament to the character of the teams we have had here at FSU the last few years. I think you learn a lot more from losses than wins and we hopefully will learn from today."
Mims was brilliant in net for Florida State recording a season-high 11 saves. She was up to the task on almost every occasion as UNC recorded 21 shots of which 13 were put on frame. With her effort versus Carolina Sunday Mims moved into second place all-time in conference history for saves in ACC Tournament play.
"Mims was great tonight," said defender Becky Edwards. "I think her experience in big games paid off. She came up big over and over. Without her it would have been a different game."
North Carolina dominated the first half statistically but after surviving an opening flurry, the Seminoles settled down and owned the better of the chances in the middle past of the first 45. Carolina did pressure once again to close out the half but neither team was able to get on the board.
Mims came up with the first of numerous big saves in the 13th minute. UNC launched a corner into the middle of the box. The first touch was a header to the backpost where Whitney Engen tried to squeeze the ball between Mims and the near post but the senior keeper was there to make the save.
Five minutes later a turnover led to UNC's Elizabeth Guess staring right down at Mims from 10 yards away on the right side. Guess pulled the trigger but it was right at Mims who came up with the stop.
The first FSU chance came in the 20th minute. Selin Kuralay laid a ball off in the midfield to Toby Ranck. She sent a diagonal ball to the left wing to Kelly Rowland. UNC keeper Anna Rodenbough came out and then retreated backwards. Rowland saw the keeper off her line and fired low to the backpost just missing with her bending shot.
"Any time you play Carolina, when you get a chance you need to capitalize on that," said Rowland. "We had them pinned in their end for a stretch there and had more chances than they did in that span. We were a bit unlucky at times but that's soccer. Carolina is a great team and it was a hard fought win."
In the 23rd minute Florida State generated another opportunity. This one started on a set piece. UNC cleared the original service to the endline where Trotter beat the defense to the ball. She centered a pass back through the box. Colette Swensen got a piece of the ball and redirected it to the far post where it was wide of the goal.
In the 26th minute Florida State continued to attack. This time Rowland played a ball through to Trotter who timed her run perfectly. She made a run at the goal with two Tar Heels on each side of her. As Trotter got to the top of the 18 she fired right at Rodenbough for the fairly easy save.
In the 35th minute Mims came up huge again. The Seminoles deflected a cross that ended up right at the feet of Robyn Gale on the far side of the box. The Tar Heel once again had a clean look at goal but Mims charged out, cut down the angle and blocked the shot fired right at her chest.
Florida State broke on top of the Tar Heels just out of the half at 50:45. Edwards slipped a ball in between the Carolina defense and Trotter ran on to the service. The senior ran towards goal and fired a low shot to the backpost staking the Seminoles to the lead. It was Edwards' team-leading seventh assist of the year.
"We talked at half about trying to exploit any gaps we could find in their backline," said Edwards. "Mark (Krikorian) talked to us about playing through balls at the half. It was on that time. India made a great run and finished it."
"We talked at halftime about breaking through because they like to play a high backline," said Trotter. "Becky played a great ball through. I ran on to it and just placed it."
In the 57th minute Carolina had an opportunity to level the game with a free kick right outside the box straight on the goal and they took advantage. A dangerous play was whistled versus FSU and Yael Averbuch took a pass on a short roll from Ali Hawkins on the set piece. Averbuch blasted the shot to the low corner of the net for the first goal allowed by FSU in the tournament.
In the 64th minute the Seminoles' Rowland had another chance to put FSU back in the lead. Trotter played a ball into the senior who was bracketed by two UNC defenders. She pulled the ball back to get a look at the goal and bent a shot wide of the backpost.
"We have played Carolina enough to know they play a high backline," said Rowland. "We were trying to play ball behind them to India and myself, that's what we were trying to do. India got one, I was close a few times. When you get those chances versus Carolina you have to finish and we didn't do that."
With just under 20 minutes remaining a UNC corner kick was cleared out by Florida State but the Heels were able to play the ball back in to the far side of the box. Tobin Heath had a look from the top of the 18 and fired a knuckling shot low to the near post. Once again Mims was there to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
UNC had the best chance before the game moved into OT. A ball was sent into the FSU box and Robyn Gale streaked on to the end of the pass. She deflected a shot high over a charging Mims but it caught the crossbar and bounced out of play.
The game moved into overtime, the sixth OT game of the season for the Seminoles. Neither team really created much of a serious chance until Guess ended the match thanks to a great give-and-go in the middle of the field.
"Give credit to Carolina," said Mims. "They pressured us and broke us down. We were able to break them down a few times as well. It was a great game. A lot of players stepped up on our team. The defense was solid. We did well. We are disappointed but going into the NCAA's we have good momentum from this tournament run."
This was the second straight overtime game in the postseason between FSU and UNC. The last one was played in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals in 2005. Each of the last three meetings between the teams have either been a tie or one-goal games and this is the second straight final between the teams that wasn't decided until the 85th-minute or later.
"I think an ACC Championship is coming for this program," said India Trotter. "We have a great team this year. We competed for almost 100 minutes with the number one team in the nation. This isn't over yet. We are going to turn our attention to the NCAA Tournament now."
The Seminoles will gather to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show Monday, November 6 at 3:00 p.m. Fans and media are invited to join the team to watch the selections, which will be announced on ESPN News between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. at Snookers on Tennessee Street For more information on how to follow the Seminoles, please log on to the official athletic website for Florida State University at Seminoles.com.
NOTES: Florida State placed four players on the All-ACC Tournament Team. Seniors Kelly Rowland, Ali Mims and India Trotter all picked up honors along with Mami Yamaguchi. The four selections tied a program-best set in 2003. Rowland's selection made her the first two-time member of the All-ACC Tournament team in program history.