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The Rematch: #2 Women’s Soccer Takes on #5 Florida State on Thursday

The titans of the ACC meet once again.

2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

In the words of James Brown, “You gotta get ready...for the big payback”

On December 2nd, 2018 the Florida State Seminoles handed the North Carolina Tar Heels one of the most heartbreaking defeats in their history. The 1-0 defeat in Cary, NC gave the Seminoles their second ever national title and extended the longest drought in UNC’s history over Anson Dorrance. It was the highest profile showdown yet in what has become the defining rivalry in ACC Women’s Soccer.

Unlike UNC’s traditional rivalries with Duke and NC State, this rivalry is purely based on merit. North Carolina virtually built women’s college soccer. No team has won more national championships. No team has had more All-Americans. The Tar Heels won 20 of the first 22 ACC Tournaments. They may have suffered defeats, but they never truly had an equal, let alone a better.

Until Florida State. The Seminoles are the nouveau riche of women’s college soccer, the team of the 2010s. They have won 5 of the last 6 ACC Tournaments, the last in a thrilling title bout with the Tar Heels which preceded their national championship victory. Under Mark Krikorian, they have recently supplanted the Tar Heels as the dominant force in the conference and in the nation. Last year was their crowning achievement.

And on Thursday in Chapel Hill they will meet again for the first time since that fateful day in Cary.

UNC comes in ranked #2 in the nation and first in the ACC. They are led by a dominant defense featuring Lotte Wubben-Moy, Maycee Ball, and Morgan Goff. The Heels have allowed just five goals all season and just one in ACC play. They surrender an average of just under five shots per game. On offense, the familiar trio of Brianna Pinto (eight goals, three assists), Bridgette Andrzejewski (five goals, five assists), and Alessia Russo (six goals, one assist) make up the bulk of the damage, though Wubben-Moy (a centerback) has developed a knack for creating offense from the back as well, adding three goals and four assists. In goal, Dorrance has a two-part series going, with Marz Josephson playing most first halves, while veteran Claudia Dickey takes over in the second. They have just one loss (Arkansas) and one tie (Duke) on the season.

Florida State comes in ranked number five, with three losses on their resume. They dropped back-to-back games on the west coast to USC and UCLA (both top five teams at the time) and fell last week to #1 Virginia. Losses aside, they are still a formidable unit led by familiar faces: Scoring machine Deyna Castellanos (eight goals, eight assists) leads the attack up front, while midfielder Yujie Zhao (five goals, four assists) shepherds the Noles in the middle of the park. Veteran goalkeeper Carolina Jeffers tends the net, but the Seminoles have been more susceptible defensively than in years past: They have allowed 16 goals already this season, including four in one game.

Last year aside, the Tar Heels have plenty to play for: They and #1 Virginia are the only unbeaten teams in ACC play (Virginia is unbeaten overall, as well) but the Heels have only one tie to Virginia’s three and, as such, control their own destiny in repeating as Regular Season Champions. They face Virginia Tech and Miami to close out the season, both games in which they will be heavily favored. This is the biggest obstacle in their path.

That they’ve had this game circled on their calendars all year just adds to the drama.

Game kicks off at 7 pm ET in Chapel Hill.