Friday, 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State (18-1-1; 1st – ACC; WTSR – 1.65, 1st – ACC)
South Alabama (19-2-1; 1st – Sun Belt; WTSR – 1.22, 3rd – Sun Belt)
So, Is This Going To Go Any Better for South Alabama Than Last Year?
I’m going to guess “no”. These two sides met at the same stage in last year’s NCAA Tournament, an easy 5-0 win for the Noles in which they led 3-0 after a little more than twenty minutes. While South Alabama has seemingly gotten better this year, so has Florida State in the eyes of most.
Give South Alabama Their Fifteen Minutes of Fame.
If you like to see mid-majors beat up small clubs, South Alabama was your team this season. They hardly pushed themselves in non-conference play en route to bludgeoning almost everyone in their path. To be fair, the Sun Belt wasn’t much tougher. The club dropped points just once, in a 4-4 draw to Louisiana-Lafayette. Rookie Charde Hannah scored twenty goals, while the club’s defense benefitted from league Defensive Player of the Year Nini Rabsatt-Smith and defensive partner Steffi Hardy. You probably could make a case that this USA deserved better than facing one of the top few teams in the tournament.
But They’re Going To Lose Badly, Right?
Yeah. USA didn’t play a single non-conference foe that finished in the RPI Top 100 and played more than one SWAC team. The Sun Belt isn’t exactly replete with sides close to FSU’s calibre either. The shock of facing such a jump in talent on Friday will likely be severe.
This FSU Side Can Go All The Way, Can’t It?
Oh yeah. It’s hard to pinpoint a true weakness on the Noles. Though the defense was a bit wobbly early, once all the pieces returned from international duty, it was smooth sailing, to the point that the club gave up just two goals in ACC play, four less than the second best club, Notre Dame. Cassie Miller has held her on in goal, while Kirsten Crowley has been a pleasant surprise as Kristin Grubka’s partner in central defense. Add in the talents of Megan Campbell and Emma Koivisto on the flanks and Michaela Hahn and Isabella Schmid as central midfielders, and you’ve got a good blend of power, pace, and technical skill that is brutally difficult to play through for opposing offenses.
So The Offense Isn’t Just Dagny Brynjarsdottir Any More?
No, and that should be terrifying to opponents. Brynjarsdottir is still playing at an All-American level with seven goals in ACC play, while Cheyna Williams has seemingly grown more comfortable in the offense as the season’s gone on after some teething problems early in the year. The really frightening thing is that FSU drowns opponents with waves of offense, with Marta Bakowska-Mathews and Berglind Thorvaldsdottir netting nine combined goals off the bench. It’s death by a thousand cuts. Or a thousand goals, if you were.
Not any glaring ones. If you’re being picky, Mark Krikorian doesn’t delve too deeply into his bench, usually running with Thorvaldsdottir, Bakowska-Mathews, and Hikaru Murakami in the biggest games. That’s not going to be a problem in early round games, but you wonder if it could wear them down later in the tournament. Additionally, Cassie Miller is still a rookie, albeit a talented one, in goal. First-year starting netminders don’t often lead their club to the promised land.
How Far Does FSU Go?
I would be surprised if they didn’t make it to the last four at least, though North Carolina in the Elite Eight is never an easy opponent. Old nemesis Stanford may loom in the Final Four though, and the Noles have never had an easy time with the Pac-12 side but will at least fancy their chances of getting another crack at a national title given how dominant they’ve looked thus far in 2014.