Florida State women's soccer defeats Virginia Tech, earns share of ACC regular season championship

Ehsan Kassim
Tallahassee Democrat

Florida State women's soccer team knew one thing going into Thursday night's regular season finale against Virginia Tech.

The Seminoles needed to win to earn a share of the ACC title.

No. 5 FSU accomplished thegoal, defeating the Hokies 4-1 to finish the regular season as co-ACC champions, bouncing back from a tough defeat at the hands of North Carolina last week. 

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Florida State (12-2-2, 8-2 ACC) earned a share of its fifth ACC regular season championship, tying with No. 2 UNC (15-3, 8-2).

"It feels good. In my time here, I've been lucky to have teammates where we've been able to accomplish quite a few things," FSU senior Jenna Nighswonger said. "I don't think we've ever been regular season champions, so it's nice to have that accomplishment."

Four-year seniors Nighswonger and Heather Payne, as well as seventh-year senior Clara Robbins, were honored during pregame on senior night.

The Seminoles earned the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament, while UNC will be No. 1, with both teams earning a bye in the quarterfinals scheduled for Sunday.

Here are three takeaways from the regular season finale. 

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Conference tournament seedings

No. 4 Notre Dame entered the night tied with UNC and FSU atop the ACC standings. The Seminole players' knew they would need to score plenty of goals to win a potential three-team tiebreaker.

The point became moot, as the Irish tied 2-2 with No. 11 Duke. UNC earned the tiebreaker over FSU by virtue of winning their lone head-to-head match on the season last week.

The Seminoles will play the winner of Notre Dame and Pittsburgh in the semifinals next Thursday in Carey, N.C. UNC will play the winner of Viriginia-Duke.

"This league is brutal, right? It's brutal," FSU coach Brian Pensky said. "We've played a pretty tough schedule within the league. And for these kids to rack up eight wins in the league and put ourselves in a position (for the No. 2 seed). ... We will take it and getting a bye on Sunday. That's a big deal."

The ACC Championship will be on Nov. 6.

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Early scoring barrage

The UNC game kicked off at 6 p.m., FSU at 7 p.m. and Notre Dame at 8 p.m. It wasn't until about 20 minutes left in the Seminoles' match that some of the players and coaches knew how many goals the team would require in case of a three-team tiebreaker.

So, FSU came out aggressive and looked to score in the first half.

Sixty-one seconds into the match, LeiLanni Nesbeth scored off a rebound from the Hokies' goalkeeper. It was the second-fastest goal of the season for the Seminoles.

Just one minute later, Onyi Echegini deposited a header past the goalkeeper to push the lead to 2-0, which held up as the score at halftime.

"We really pushed like the first 15 mentality," Nighswonger said. "I think just knowing that we can go out there and score goals quickly. We're a pretty fast team, so I think sometimes that catches teams a little bit off guard. So we were just lucky to catch Virginia Tech early on before they could get settled into the game."

In the 75th minute, Echegini scored her second goal of the game.

Robbins capped the scoring with a penalty kick in the 90th minute. It was her first PK attempt of the season.

Nighswonger said she thought it would be a good time for Robbins to take the penalty kick.

"I've been practicing, just because I knew at some point I might be asked to take a PK, whether it's during the regular time in a game or in the postseason," Robbins said. "It wasn't a huge surprise. But I didn't know that in this game I was going to be taking the PK."

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Chance for revenge?

The last time out for the Seminoles on Oct. 20, they lost 2-1 at the hand of the Tar Heels.

A week off of games allowed the team to regroup and get ready for the season finale.

FSU has not lost back-to-back matches since 2019.

The Seminoles' two losses this season came against UNC and Notre Dame. FSU could draw the Irish in the semifinals and UNC in the championship game.

"Everyone wants a chance at redemption," Robbins said. "But it'll work itself out and we'll go out and compete against whoever it is."

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).

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