As the defending national champions, Stanford women’s soccer (21-0-2, 10-0-1) takes its title defense to North Carolina to face Florida State (18-4-3, 5-4-1 ACC) in the semifinals of the College Cup. The No. 1 seed Cardinal will put their 45-game unbeaten streak on the line in WakeMed Soccer Park against the fellow No. 1 seed Seminoles.
Pac-12 champion Stanford will match up against ACC Champion Florida State, who earned their title with a 3-2 win over North Carolina (20-3-2, 10-0-0 ACC), another semifinal team this year. The Cardinal have also beaten the Tar Heels this season in a Sept. 9 game in Cagan Stadium. Georgetown (21-0-3, 10-0-1 Big East) is the fourth team that made it to the College Cup.
Stanford flew out to Cary a few days early in order to adjust to its first official away game since the regular season finale. Florida State is also familiar with the facility, having just played in the stadium for their conference championship. Stanford did however, play their second round match against Ole Miss in Salinas. It did not seem to bother team much as they went on to dominate 4-1. The Cardinal’s other three victories on the way to the semifinal were all shutouts, by three, one, and two goals over Seattle, Wisconsin and Tennessee respectively.
Florida State has reached the College Cup with back-to-back wins over 2016 champion USC and 2015 winner Penn State after an opening round triumph over Loyola Chicago. The upcoming matchup against Stanford will be their third-straight game against each of the last three national champions.
The Seminoles have dominated second halves in the postseason, scoring five of their six goals and never conceding. On the season, Florida State has only allowed six second half goals.
The excellent defensive play is hardly new for a Seminole team holding opponents to just 0.51 goals per game. However, Stanford’s defense might be even better. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Alison Jahansouz and the Cardinal defense are limiting opponents to 0.43 goals per game, and have tallied 14 shutouts this season. Jahansouz has the fourth best goals-against average nationally and is coming off a performance with a career-high six saves.
Yesterday, Stanford was able to hold a practice inside WakeMed Stadium. Senior captains defender Alana Cook and midfielder Jordan DiBiasi spoke at the media day press conference.
“They’ve got a talented lineup,” said Cook. “They play good solid soccer. It’s going to be a fun challenge for both of us to try and negate what the other one does and what makes that team so special.”
Cook’s defense will be tasked with restraining Dallas Dorosy, who has excelled in clutch moments, with a team-high nine points in the seven games of the ACC & NCAA Tournaments. Deyna Castellanos, who leads the Seminoles with ten goals on the season, will also look to do damage against the Cardinal. Castellanos leads her team in both goals, with 10, and assists, with six. After five game-winning goals this season, including three against ranked teams, Castellanos now has 15 over her career.
Stanford has its own star with 15 career game-winning goals – DiBiasi. The most recent came on a header against Wisconsin that was the difference in a 1-0 victory in the third round. Her sights have always been looking forward. “We enjoyed last season until the new year, then starting in January it was, ‘Here we go. We have something to prove,’” said DiBiasi. This echoed the sentiment of Cook, who acknowledged that the pressure to defend a title is “a privilege.”
“This might be the most adversity I’ve personally faced on a team,” said DiBiasi. “With the injuries, it’s given other people opportunities and they’re stepping up huge for us.” Cook and DiBiasi are the only Cardinal to have started every game. The Cardinal have three players with at least five points in the tournament. Sophomore forwards Civana Kuhlmann and Catarina Macario both have six, and freshman defender Naomi Girma scored the first two goals of her career, and along with an assist, she has five.
The two captains and Macario were each named semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy, the highest individual intercollegiate award administered by United Soccer Coaches. Stanford is the only school with three student-athletes on the shortlist.
However, Stanford is also getting healthy at the right time. Sophomore forward Madison Haley and senior defender Tegan McGrady were both able to enter the quarterfinal match as substitutes, and Stanford will also hope to welcome junior defender Tierna Davidson back to the field coming off her first game in uniform in almost three months.
In case there was not enough already on the line when the game kicks off at 4:30 p.m. PST, the winner from the last two meetings between Stanford and Florida State has gone on to win it all.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.