Four straight ACC Championships. Three years removed from a National Championship. Nine College Cup (Soccer's Final Four) appearances in the last 15 years. The Preseason favorite to win the ACC. Four players on the Preseason All-ACC team.
If you were to give a casual soccer fan those descriptions and asked them to guess which team they referred to, they would almost certainly say North Carolina. They would be wrong. The answer is the Seminoles of Florida State. In the last five years, it has been the Seminoles, not the Tar Heels, who have been the dominant ACC power, both nationally and in conference play. The ACC, known for decades as the consulship of North and Carolina, has had a new team on the throne.
On Sunday afternoon, the Tar Heels put a stop to that. Make no mistake about it: The Tar Heels have been the better team all season. They have the better record, they beat them in Tallahassee. But, until Sunday, the Noles still got to refer to themselves as the "four-time defending champs." No longer.
The Quarterfinal matchup began poorly for the Tar Heels. The Seminoles, who have been inconsistent all season, started the game like they'd been shot out of a cannon. Within the first six minutes, they had won four corner kicks. The Heels were pinned back early and an FSU goal seemed inevitable. But the Noles couldn't capitalize and, much like a distance runner who sprints at the starting gun, lost momentum quickly.
Carolina struck first in the 15th minute, when Bridgette Andrzejewski's header was blocked by FSU goalie Cassie Miller right into the path of Zoe Redei. Redei, who has been struggling with injuries the last two years, blasted in the rebound; her first goal since September of last year.
The Heels dominated possession the rest of the first half, but the score remained 1-0 at halftime. Seven minutes into the 2nd, Andrzejewski drew a penalty when she was brought down in the box. Taylor Otto slotted in the penalty kick into the lower right corner, her third successful PK attempt of the year, and the Heels led 2-0.
Florida State countered minutes later on a Dallas Dorosy goal in the 56th minute. The rest of the match saw neither team grab an advantage, with most of the action in the midfield. Carolina's defense, it's strength throughout the year, allowed the Noles only one shot in the last 30 minutes of play.
The Tar Heels now move on to the semifinals to face NC State. The Wolfpack and the Tar Heels did not play in the regular season, but the Pack are riding a six-game win streak that shot them up the ACC rankings at the end of the year. Meanwhile, Duke and Virginia square off. If the Heels take care of business against State, we could be in for one of the best ACC Championship games in recent memory between the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils.
The Semis start at 8 pm on Friday on the ACC Network.