Santa Clara, Cali. – For the third time in the last eight years, the top-ranked Florida State women’s soccer team has won the NCAA National Championship. FSU downed No. 13 BYU Monday evening in Santa Clara in a penalty kick shootout to win the Women’s College Cup. FSU (22-1-2) now has the second-most NCAA titles in the history of the sport and is one of just two teams to ever win three titles in an eight-year span.
Florida State, which lost the 2020 title in a shootout, wouldn’t fall victim to the same fate in 2021. Goalkeeper Cristina Roque came up with saves on the second and fourth BYU PKs and Yujie Zhao sealed the title hitting the final PK to give the Seminoles the title 4-3.
“I feel like I had a lot of trust in my teammates, everyone who was stepping up to kick the ball especially (Zhao) finishing it off” said Roque. “I feel like everyone is behind me no matter which way it goes just how last year it didn’t just go our way and everyone was behind me then. I knew whatever happened this year they were going to be behind me. I’m not gonna lie it does feel better here.”
“That was a great feeling,” said Zhao about hitting the winning penalty kick. “I have a faith…It’s a little unfortunate we didn’t score a goal in the regular time but I have a faith that we are going to win in PKs.”
With the 2021 title in hand, Florida State has cemented its legacy among the greatest programs in the sport. Only North Carolina has won more NCAA women’s soccer national championships as FSU is now tied with Notre Dame and Stanford for second on the all-time list for most championships.
“It feels quite nice to be sitting on this side of it,” said FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian. “Last year I thought that we were quite good and we had some unfinished business we needed to address.”
BYU, which came into the match averaging 3.5 goals a game, was facing an FSU team that hadn’t allowed a goal in the run of play all tournament. Neither team was able to breakthrough in 110 minutes of play as the Seminoles shut down the potent BYU attack, shutting out the Cougars for just the third time this season.
“Everyone that was here was treated to a heck of a soccer game with two very good teams,” said Krikorian. “I thought BYU gave us everything we could handle. Extremely proud of our group. I thought we played well, played smart, played hard but BYU matched us all the way. Heck of a national championship. Heck of a final.”
The Cougars had a couple of good chances to take the lead in the first half. The first was a goal that was waved off due to an offside call. The second was thwarted by a key defensive stop by MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist Emily Madril whose sliding tackle just eight yards in front of the FSU goal negated a serious scoring opportunity.
With just under 20 minutes remaining in regulation, Jody Brown had a piece of individual brilliance to create a dangerous chance. The Jamaican national beat two BYU players and worked her way four yards out from goal but from a difficult angle she was unable to get her shot on frame.
As the clock clicked under 10:00, BYU had another scoring opportunity. A Cougar deflection in the box landed right in front of an attacking Jamie Shepherd who one-timed the shot just over the crossbar keeping the game even.
With just 1:00 remaining, FSU almost cemented the game off a Zhao corner. The Cougars attempted to clear the cross but the Cougars’ header went off the crossbar and bounced back to Brown. The sophomore fired from three yards out but couldn’t get past the bodies in the box and her shot was deflected off a BYU defender.
In the 102nd-minute Heather Payne looked like she had sent the game-winning assist into the box. The Irish national sent a beautiful ball into the middle of the box where Beata Olsson had her shot blocked at point-blank range. Brown was there and looked to have a chance to follow up but slipped down before she could get a chance off.
Just three minutes later it was Jenna Nighswonger that had a chance to end it but her shot ended up right on the BYU keeper who made the stop.
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