After a year’s absence, Florida State has regained its perch ruling women’s soccer in the Atlantic Coast Conference. But the Seminoles had to do it the hard way.
Senior midfielder Dallas Dorosy scored two first-half goals and assisted on the game-winner by Kristina Lynch with less than seven minutes to play, lifting the Seminoles past top-seeded North Carolina 3-2 in the championship game of the ACC tournament Sunday.
A crowd of 2,580 in Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park saw the seventh-seeded Seminoles (15-4-2) become the lowest seed ever to win the tournament. Not that FSU was that big a long shot.
The Seminoles were ranked seventh in the nation, and their seventh-place ACC finish was a factor of the league’s unbalanced schedule and some youthful inconsistency in a lineup that features five freshmen and three sophomores.
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Dorosy scored her third and fourth goals of the season to stake the Seminoles to a 2-0 halftime lead. She converted a pass from Jaelin Howell in the 36th minute and knocked in a loose ball from close range in the 41st after a deflected cross.
“I think I’ve been slower this season getting the ball in the net,” said Dorosy, who credited the team’s energy for her big day. “I try every game to come off the bench and bring a lift to the game. And today just worked out.”
Those were the first goals allowed by third-ranked UNC (17-3-1) since Oct. 7, and the first surrendered by goalkeeper Samantha Leshnak in a school-record span of 1,119 minutes and 23 seconds, dating to Aug. 22 against Texas. UNC had allowed only seven goals previously this season, and only No. 1 Stanford had managed to score two.
Even more remarkably, the deficit represented only the 25th time since 1985 -- 955 games -- that UNC had trailed by more than one goal in match. The deficit wouldn’t last long.
In the 62nd minute, FSU goalkeeper Brooke Bollinger came off her line to pull down a UNC cross but fell awkwardly and injured her shoulder while trying to keep the ball out of the goal. After a long delay, Bollinger went to the locker room and was replaced by redshirt junior Caroline Jeffers, whose subsequent mistake resulted in a UNC goal two minutes later.
Jeffers took a back pass from a teammate, but her attempted clear was deflected by UNC forward Alex Kimball into the net for her third goal of the season.
“One of my responsibilities as a center forward is to high-pressure the center back and goalkeeper,” Kimball said. “I knew she was fresh into the game. I saw the play formulating and the defender pass it back, and I just jumped on it. Sometimes goalkeepers don’t get a clean strike off the ball, so I just saw an opportunity and went for it.”
The Tar Heels leveled the match in the 72nd minute. UNC forward Rachel Jones stole another attempted clear, ran down the loose ball in the left corner, and angled a cross in front of the goal that Ru Mucherera headed in for the redshirt junior’s her first goal of the season.
“Obviously the injury to their goalkeeper was huge,” UNC coach Anson Dorrance said. “You could tell the reserve goalkeeper that went in was absolutely terrified. She tried to win a footrace with Alex Kimball on the goal that Alex scored, and then a great ball from Jonesy over the top to Ru to the back of the net. That was fabulous.
“And then (FSU) recomposed themselves for their final push, which is to their credit.”
Dorosy, named the tournament MVP, was in the middle of that push. She ran down a pass on the right wing from Kaycie Tillman and sent a cross to the far post to Lynch, whose volley provided the game-winner.
UNC nearly answered again, but Jeffers saved Julia Ashley’s sharp header on a corner kick in the 86th minute.
“I thought that by and large heading into the second half we had pretty good control of the game,” FSU coach Mark Krikorian said. “But you always have to be concerned about Carolina’s firepower. At any moment the game can change.
“They took advantage of the situation and got a goal, then a second goal. But our players showed composure after giving up two goals, to come back and score a goal to win the game.”
Joining Dorosy on the all-tournament team were FSU’s Howell, Deyna Castellanos, Natalia Kuikka, and Kristen McFarland; UNC’s Kimball, Ashley, Brianna Pinto, and Taylor Otto; Clemson’s Sam Staab; and Virginia’s Alexa Spaanstra.
FSU’s ACC title was its sixth in school history, all coming in the past eight years, including four in a row from 2013-16. The victory also avenged a 1-0 loss to the Tar Heels during the regular season at Tallahassee on Sept. 13.
As the ACC champion, Florida State will get one of the 32 automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, and the remainder of the 64-team field will be announced at 4:30 p.m. Monday. UNC is likely to land one of the four No. 1 seeds, as could FSU.
“I sure hope so,” said Krikorian, whose Seminoles knocked off the top three teams in the ACC – UNC, Duke, and Virginia – in their title run. “I don’t know if anybody in the country has beaten as many top teams as we have.”