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FSU set to defend women’s soccer title

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On Friday, the Florida State women’s soccer team will begin their quest for a second consecutive national championship when they host the Evansville Purple Aces. The Seminoles, 14-2-4 and Atlantic Coast Conference Champions, begin NCAA Tournament play as the No. 1 overall national seed in the tournament.

Should FSU make it the College Cup Finals, they could face the Florida Gators, who are the second seed in the Stanford Regional. The Gators, 17-3-1 and Southeastern Conference Champions, welcome the Western Michigan Broncos to Gainesville on Saturday.

If Florida wins that match, they will then play the winner of Central Florida (12-6-1) and William and Mary (14-4-2). The game takes place in Orlando on Saturday.

Also beginning tournament play on Saturday is South Florida (15-3-3), who opens with the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (13-5-2) in Tampa. The winner faces a potential matchup with No. 3 seed Duke.

To make it to the College Cup semifinals on December 4 in Cary, North Carolina, both teams have some difficult matchups ahead. FSU has a potential third round matchup with fourth seed Auburn and a regional final against either second seed Clemson or third seed North Carolina.

Florida has a potential for a third-round match against No. 3 seed Duke, or possibly USF. If they would survive that, top-seeded Stanford would stand in the way of a Final Four appearance.

The Gators defeated the Seminoles 3-2 on August 30, handing them one of their two losses. Both coaches, Florida State’s Mark Krikorian and Florida’s Becky Burleigh, would welcome a rematch.

Junior Savannah Jordan leads the Gator attack. She is second in the nation in goals scored with 21 while Senior Christen Westphal is fourth nationally in assists with 13. Florida State Freshman Megan Connolly and South Florida Senior Olivia Chance are tied for 12th in assists with 10.

The Gators are fifth nationally with a goals-per-game average of 2.57. Florida State is 9th at 2.45.

In addition to Florida State and Stanford, the top seeds in the other two regions are Penn State and Virginia.

The ACC is the undisputed power conference of women’s soccer and has been since the women’s tournament began in 1982. North Carolina has won a mind-boggling 20 national championships. FSU earned the league’s 21st championship last season while Notre Dame has won three titles before joining the ACC.

Now the league’s strength and balance is on full display with this year’s tournament field. Eight teams received bids to the tournament, with Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Notre Dame joining FSU as top 4 seeds in their respective regions. Virginia joins FSU as a regional No. 1 seed.

The SEC sports a number of good teams as well. Five other teams from the league were invited with Auburn joining Florida as the other seeded team.

USF may have something to say about an FSU vs. Florida matchup. The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) power rankings show FSU on top with Florida coming in at No. 6. Despite not being seeded in the top 16, USF sports an RPI rank of 11 and have the potential to advance to play the Gators in the third round.

The tournament bracket can be found here.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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