Florida State women's soccer: Seminoles take down Duke to take control of first place in ACC

Ehsan Kassim
Tallahassee Democrat

Coming off its first loss of the season, the Florida State women's soccer team came out with more energy Thursday against Duke.

The extra energy for the team paid off, as the No. 4 Seminoles defeated No. 12 Duke 5-1 with a flurry of second half goals.

FSU (10-1-2, 6-1 ACC) is now in sole custody of first place in the ACC with three conference matches remaining.

Unbeatable:Florida State women's soccer: Goalkeeper Cristina Roque remains unbeaten, hard to score on

Overcoming:Florida State women's soccer: Jenna Nighswonger overcomes death of grandfather to lead Seminoles

Decision to return:Florida State soccer: Beata Olsson decided to return after peppering Brian Pensky with questions

The Seminoles lost 4-0 at Notre Dame on Sunday, snapping a 20-game unbeaten streak dating back to last season, the second-longest in program history.

"Yeah, obviously it was a smash in the face but was a good turnaround today," forward Jody Brown said. "We came out with good energy at the start the game and got the first goal and then they scored. But the energy everyone on the team was contributing tonight. to get that win. It was amazing."

Brown scored two goals, while Beata Olsson, LeiLanni Nesbeth and Olivia Garcia each chipped in a goal.

Jenna Nighswonger added three assists, with Onyi Echengini, Sophia Nguyen, Clara Robbins and Maria Alagoa also contributing assists.

FSU has now scored at least five goals in six matches this season. Here are four takeaways from the sixth one. 

Debut in style:Florida State soccer: Onyi Echegini debuts in ACC with hat trick, earns Offensive Player of Week

Bouncing back from first loss

Brown opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when Jenna Nighswonger and Clara Robbins found her for a one-on-one opportunity.

The Blue Devils quickly tied the goal off a deflection score by Grace Watkins. The game was 1-all at halftime.

The second half was all Seminoles. Brown opened the scoring in the 50th minute. Four minutes later, it was 3-1 on a goal by Olsson. Nesbeth pushed the lead to three in the 63rd minute, and then Garcia ended the scoring with a goal in the 80th minute.

"I think it was incredible for us to just rebound like that," Robbins said. "I couldn't have asked for people to play better, to show up, to play harder. I think that it was a much needed performance. And we're all like feeling good after this game, but we know we have some big important games coming up."

Goalkeeper Cristian Roque, who had four saves, is now 33-0-8 in her FSU career. She had two saves in each half.

First season:Florida State soccer coach Brian Pensky approaches first season with roster finally stabilized

Clara Robbins' 100th career match

It was a milestone match for the redshirt senior.

Robbins appeared in her 100th career match with the Seminoles. She was on the 2018 and 2021 National Championship teams for FSU after redshirting her first year on campus in 2016.

She will go down as one of the best to dawn the garnet and gold.

"It felt great," Robbins said. "I had no idea that I was even coming close to that. Yeah, I mean, when I look back at my whole career at forestay I'm just so thankful and I can't even imagine not having this experience."

Pensky hired:Florida State hires Tennessee head coach Brian Pensky as next head soccer coach

ACC standings update

Following the loss to Notre Dame, FSU coach Brian Pensky said the coaching staff presented the team with the ACC standings for the first time as a way to cheer the team up.

"Just trying to emotionally pick them up from Sunday to be honest," Pensky said. "Otherwise we haven't talked about it right because it's all just it's about the next game and nothing else matters.

"We need to right now worry about North Carolina. We're not complaining about where we stand right now. Maybe, even a little bit disappointed that our lead is not bigger after the Notre Dame game."

The victory put the Seminoles in the driver's seat to win the conference. They are now one game and three points ahead of Duke in the standings.

Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and North Carolina are all 4-2, meaning they are one-and-a-half games and six points behind FSU.

"Obviously we want to win as much as we can," Robbins said. "And the main priority is the national championship, but if we can win some other things along the way, that's great."

Championship defense:FSU soccer ready to face unrelenting crowds in road trips to begin championship-defending season

Scoring leaders

The match was Brown's third career game with two goals, and it was the third time Nighswonger finished with three assists.

Nightswonger leads the team with 18 points (four goals, 10 assists), while Brown is second with 17 points and her six goals are tied with Echegini for the team lead.

Olsson has added five goals, while Alagoa, Garcia and Robbins have three apiece.

Four other scorers have two goals, while three others have one goal.

Career-high:Career-high 10 saves by Roque lead No. 3 Seminoles over No. 2 Cavaliers

What's ahead

Florida State gets a week off before hosting North Carolina at 8 p.m. next Thursday at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network.

The Seminoles travel to Pittsburgh on Oct. 23 before closing out the regular season with a home date against Virginia Tech on Oct. 27.

On Oct. 30, the ACC Tournament quarterfinals are scheduled to be played, with the semifinal scheduled for Nov. 3 and championship on Nov. 7.

Reach Ehsan Kassim at ekassim@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).

No one covers the ‘Noles like the Tallahassee Democrat. Subscribe using the link at the top of the page and never miss a moment.