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FSU women seek 2nd straight national soccer title

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The third Big Ten vs. ACC Challenge of the week is set for Sunday, but this one will determine far more than conference bragging rights. A soccer national championship awaits the winner.

Defending national champion and top national seed Florida State (18-2-2) is seeking its second consecutive NCAA title. The Seminoles will face conference foe and No. 3 seed Duke (13-5-5) in Friday’s second game of the College Cup national semifinals being played in Cary, North Carolina.

Friday’s first game features two Big 10 rivals, Penn State and Rutgers. One thing is for certain: Both games will feature teams that know each other quite well.

FSU and Duke met on Sept. 20 in Durham, North Carolina. The game ended in a scoreless tie in two overtimes, but the Blue Devils had more chances to win the game.

The Seminoles were limited to just eight shots the entire game and only required Duke Goalie EJ Proctor to make one save. On the other hand, Duke fired 25 shots, forcing Seminole Goalie Cassie Miller to make six saves. The shot difference in regulation 18-3.

FSU Coach Mark Krikorian knows his team is up against a quality opponent. Just to make it to the College Cup, the Blue Devils had to beat the Florida Gators in Gainesville, then traveled cross-country and defeated top-seeded Stanford in Palo Alto, California.

“They have our complete attention,” Krikorian said Friday.

The Seminoles are on an incredible streak in NCAA play. Since UCLA edged the Seminoles, 1-0 in the 2013 title game, FSU has not allowed a goal in 10 consecutive tournament games, including last year’s spotless march to the national championship.

Megan Connolly and Cheyna Williams are Florida State’s top scoring threats with 19 goals and 17 assists combined. Miller has 15 shutouts in goal.

Duke’s scoring is spread among several players led by Taylor Raccioppi and Kayla McCoy with seven each. Proctor and the Blue Devils have 13 shutouts.

Penn State and Rutgers will be playing for the third time this season. Rutgers shut out the Nittany Lions, 1-0 on Oct. 18 at Rutgers, while Penn State shut out the Scarlet Knights, 2-0 on Nov. 8 at Penn State.

This game begins at 5 p.m. with Florida State vs. Duke following at 7:30. Both games will be shown on ESPNU.

The Big 10/ACC challenge for the national championship is noon  Sunday on ESPNU.

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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