TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It was the start of a new season, but it was the same standard of Florida State soccer on display Thursday night as the No. 10 Seminoles (1-0-0) controlled possession and offensive chances throughout the match, earning a 1-0 win over RV Vanderbilt (0-1-0) to open 2018 at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
The Noles outshot the Commodores 12-2 and held a 9-1 advantage in corner kicks. FSU did not allow Vanderbilt to get a corner kick until the 76th minute and the first shot of the game for the Commodores came in the 78th minute.
Senior Natalia Kuikka scored the game-winner in the 56th minute, the eighth goal of her career for the season-opening win. Florida State improved to 13-1-0 on opening day under head coach Mark Krikorian, including a mark of 8-0-0 at home. Overall, the Noles have won 11 straight season openers, outscoring the opposition by a combined score of 27-3.
“Throughout the course of the first half and, also in the second half, we had some pretty good looks at the goal,” said Krikorian. “Credit to Vanderbilt’s kids. They fought and competed and their goalkeeper was in a good position and we were a bit unlucky once or twice, as well. Fortunately for us, we had very good execution and a great finish on the goal and we were able to sneak away with a 1-0 win.”
The Noles nearly jumped out to an early lead as Kuikka sent a long ball from the backline up the right side to Megan Connolly in the fifth minute, and the senior’s cross found Kristen McFarland streaking through the box. However, the redshirt sophomore’s shot went off the crossbar and was cleared away.
Connolly was on the end of a cross by Kaycie Tillman in the 19th minute, but her header from near the penalty spot went just over the goal.
Gloriana Villalobos was fouled near the top of the box in the 36th minute and the sophomore took the free kick over the wall, but it was saved by Vanderbilt GK Lauren Demarchi.
The only offensive threat that Vanderbilt created in the first half came in the 39th minute as Madison Elwell took the ball down the left side and created space for a cross, but Kuikka easily cleared the ball as the FSU defense recovered.
In her first game back after missing 2017 with an injury, Malia Berkely was back to full form and lasered a shot from 20 yards in the 42nd minute that required a leaping punch save from Demarchi to keep the game scoreless heading into halftime.
Out of the break, Vanderbilt brought in Taiana Tolleson as its goalkeeper for the second half and the Noles put pressure on early with three corner kicks in the first eight minutes of the period.
FSU scored the game’s only goal in the 56th minute as Berkely found Kuikka in the box and the senior drove a low shot to the left and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
McFarland narrowly missed another goal in the 60th minute as she worked her way through the front of the penalty box and put a shot past the goalkeeper, but it rolled wide left of the goal.
Redshirt freshman Brooke Bollinger made the first save of her career in the 78th minute on a header from VU’s Peyton Cutshall, but made an outstanding play in the 85th minute to help secure the win. After a free kick from near midfield, Kaylann Boyd found space in the penalty box on the right, turned and lined a shot inside the far post, but Bollinger was able to get a hand on it to redirect it into the post and it was eventually cleared away by the Seminole defense in what was Vanderbilt’s final offensive chance.
“Brooke had a clean sheet in her first game and did a very good job for us,” added Krikorian. “Her decision-making was good throughout and I think we are going to see another top-level goalkeeper emerge and develop, much like Cassie Miller and Kelsey Wys did, as well as the others before them.”
The Seminoles remain at home for a match against Troy (1-0-0) on Sunday, August 19 at 6:00 p.m. Admission is free for all home games at the Seminole Soccer Complex and live stats will be available on Seminoles.com.
Throughout 2018-19, the Seminoles will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of women’s intercollegiate athletics at Florida State and there are many events and reunions planned for all women’s sports. Head to www.seminoles.com/50th/ for more information that will be updated throughout the year.
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