Sophomore goalkeeper Cristina Roque proving clutch once again for Florida State soccer
Florida State’s soccer coach Mark Krikorian tabbed true freshman Cristina Roque as his starting goalkeeper immediately to open last season.
The Seminoles learned quickly that despite her inexperience at the time their last line of defense was in good hands.
FSU has since trusted Roque in the biggest of moments as it is doing so again this postseason.
After rotating starts between Roque and freshman Mia Justus to give both talented keepers valuable experience, the Seminoles have turned over the goalkeeping duties solely to Roque since the ACC tournament.
FSU is 10-0-2 this season when Roque starts including a 3-0 record so far this post season. She has started the past four games and allowed only two goals during that span.
Roque will look to guide FSU to another victory when the Seminoles (17-1-2), ranked No. 1 in the nation, host No. 25 SMU (12-4-2) on Friday at 5 p.m. in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I think that started last year as well. She’s really steady in the goal, consistent as can be, reliable as can be and I think that overall she's done a really good job for us,” Krikorian said. “We know that we have a good problem with two really good goalkeepers. And I think at this phase of the year though, we need to kind of zero in with one and Cristina is the goalkeeper at this point. And she’s done a great job.”
Playing full-time last season, the sophomore from Winter Garden, Fla. allowed eight goals in 16 starts as a freshman. Her 10 shutouts ranked fifth in the nation. She stepped up huge with a combined three saves on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals and semifinals of last year’s NCAA tournament.
Roque has allowed nine goals in 12 starts this season (0.72 goals against average), has 18 saves and posted her fifth shutout in last week’s first-round win over South Alabama.
Backing up one of the best defensive backfields in the nation, Roque will sometimes not even need to make a save or perhaps only one or two in a game.
But when tested she has responded particularly well in the postseason just as she did in May during the College Cup. In a 2-2 draw against North Carolina on Oct. 21, Roque saved FSU from defeat when she leapt and batted away a high-arching shot in the final minute of double overtime which would have given the Tar Heels a victory.
“I have such a good quality and I would say it's nice to have in front of me because I'm very comfortable with everyone in my back line,” Roque said. “It’s so much easier when you trust the people in front of you than if you don't.”
Roque, who plays for the Puerto Rican national team and was a member of the U.S. Olympic Development program for three years, began playing the keeper position at age 12. When her youth soccer team at the time did not have anyone to play in goal, she stepped up and took on the role and her athleticism was on display immediately as her skills flourished quickly.
Roque went on to become a standout at West Orange High and honed her skills on the Florida Rush select team in 2015 and 2016 before playing in the Women’s Premier Soccer League in 2018 and 2019.
Roque said she has improved at her crosses on the back end and her communication with her teammates on defense.
“I've gotten more comfortable with everyone on this team,” Roque said. “Obviously we had a long season since COVID so that was obviously a great start, but just being able to come back now and train with everyone.”
A new challenge
While SMU does not have one major prolific scorer, it collectively has put together a solid offensive attack that could challenge Roque and the Seminoles’ defense led by Wayny Balata (five goals), Lindsey Whitmore (four goals) and Courtney Sebazco (four goals).
The Mustangs arrive in Tallahassee on a seven-game winning streak and have shutout their past six opponents including a 2-0 shutout victory over No. 21 Texas at home in their first round matchup this past Sunday.
SMU has also rotated among two keepers this season as Samantha Estrada, who had the shutout against Texas, and Tatum Sutherland have combined to allow 15 goals in 18 matches.
This will be FSU and SMU’s first-ever meeting. The Seminoles are 18-2 all-time in the second round of the NCAA tournament and have advanced beyond this round four consecutive seasons.
If FSU advances, it would host the winner of Pepperdine and NC State on Sunday at 2 p.m. NC State and Pepperdine play at 2 p.m. on Friday at the Seminoles Soccer Complex prior to FSU’s match.
“We have all the respect of the world for (SMU coach) Chris Petrucelli and the job they do. They're going to be organized and disciplined,” Krikorian said. “They have a nice combination of technical players, good athletes and their game against the University of Texas was a masterpiece. I'm sure they're going to be looking for the same type of performance from their kids so we're gonna have to do what it is that we do.”
No. 1 Florida State soccer (17-1-2) vs. No. 25 SMU (12-4-2)
When: Friday, 5 p.m., FSU Soccer Complex.
TV: ACC Network Extra.
Reach Andre Fernandez at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @FernandezAndreC.
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