This is a little bit later than I would have liked to get this out, but hey, it was a busy day for college soccer yesterday.
1. Florida Has Severe Issues at Goalkeeper
When up at 3-1 in the second half, it looked like Florida would be cruising towards victory. But then Katie Fraine dropped a tame Molly Kinsella shot over the line before a combination of poor positioning and a noticeable lack of mobility kept her from stopping Megan Kinsella’s low shot to the corner that leveled the score. To make matters worse, Fraine couldn’t take goal kicks towards the end of the contest, forcing Florida to rely on Ashlee Elliott to boom the ball out, which she looked shaky at doing. While the Gators came back to win, Fraine’s struggles in goal have to be a serious concern for coach Becky Burleigh who must surely know that conceding three against better sides is a recipe for disaster. The scuttlebutt making the rounds is that Fraine has been nursing an injury, but the biggest issue for the SEC regular season champs is that there are no proven backups behind their senior keeper. Which means for better or for worse, Florida’s SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament hopes may be in Fraine’s hands.
2. Auburn’s Lack of A Plan B May Have Cost Them A Spot In The NCAA Tournament
When Katy Frierson scored fortuitously at the quarter hour mark for the Tigers, Auburn fans could have been forgiven for thinking that their side would be on the front foot going forward. It didn’t work out that way. Auburn found out that they couldn’t keep possession and were under constant, if somewhat wayward, bombardment by the Georgia offense. Adjustments at the half were likely in order if the #5 seed wanted to hold their lead or push for a second. But if anything, the difference in quality on this day became even more pronounced, and only Georgia’s own lackluster finishing spared the Tigers a defeat in regulation. Any hopes of a smash and grab winner in extra time faded quickly as it became apparent that Auburn just lacked any answers on this night. The side that beat FSU and Florida likely would have advanced on Thursday night…but instead, the side that lost to Ole Miss and Tennessee showed up and crumbled. It’ll be a nervous weekend for the Tigers.
3. The Tennessee of Old Isn’t Coming Back
In the second match of the afternoon, Tennessee and LSU presided over a largely sloppy and dull affair. With all things considered, you would think that Tennessee, as #3 seeds would have the advantage, and if you viewed the match strictly in the middle third of the pitch, you would have expected a Volunteer rout. But for all their rampaging runs through Chelsea Hatcher, Emily Dowd, and others, there was an all too real bluntness in the cutting edge of the Orange in front of goal. The uncultured Vols offense spurned more than one offensive opportunity, and the excellent Megan Kinneman was up to the task in stopping the rest in the LSU goal. In truth, the Tigers’ own lack of cultivated firepower in front of goal was also apparent (partially creating the maddening stalemate), but that’s why you practice set pieces. LSU got the only goal they needed off of a scramble in the box after a long free kick and left Tennessee looking for more answers after another season without NCAA Tournament play.
4. Spare A Thought For Molly Kinsella
Her side may have been ultimately outgunned by the Gators’ legion of weapons, but it’s hard not to stand and applaud the effort and career of Vanderbilt’s Molly Kinsella. Kinsella provided one of the single greatest one woman performances in the SEC Tournament for a losing squad since Malorie Rutledge’s valiant effort for LSU against Florida in the 2007 semi-finals. Constantly willing her team on and giving the Florida defense and Kathryn Williamson in particular a torrid time, Kinsella would not go quietly as she desperately tried to extend her college career with a brilliant performance in Orange Beach. That she will have never played in the NCAA Tournament despite four excellent years in Nashville is a true shame, and inevitably, real questions must be asked of coach Ronnie Woodard for not being able to achieve any degree of success despite the presence of such a talented player in her ranks.
5. You Can’t Escape Krikorian-gate, Even In Orange Beach
You have to wonder if Florida State coach Mark Krikorian had any clue as to the firestorm his decision to leave at home his first choice team for the ACC Tournament would cause. The fateful decision has caused an inferno of debate around the college soccer world while also seeping into the general discussion of NCAA athletics as a whole. Unsurprisingly, the reaction has run a gamut of opinions, with some practically calling for the FSU coach to swing from the gallows, while others vehemently defend his right to make squad selection decisions for his own team.
The only consensus that seems to have been reached is that you just can’t escape the damn story, even in remote Orange Beach at the SEC Tournament. While having FSU assistant Eric Bell in the stands on a scouting mission may have inevitably been like throwing a bucket of gasoline on a fire, with fellow coaches treating Bell, and by proxy Krikorian, as the sport’s latest cause cPowered by Sidelines