With penalty kicks even at 4-4 and a trip to the Elite Eight on the line, senior forward Leah Pruitt stepped up and shot the ball toward the left corner of the net. But Florida State goalie Caroline Jeffers dove and deflected it. Pruitt walked back to the line and hugged her teammates with tears in her eyes, even before Seminole midfielder Yujie Zhao netted the winning penalty kick that ended USC’s season.
After double overtime failed to determine a winner following a 1-1 regulation score, No. 6 USC and No. 5 Florida State went into a shootout on Saturday afternoon in the Sweet Sixteen in Tallahassee, Florida. The Women of Troy struck first, and the Seminoles matched them to keep the count even, but FSU’s 5-4 victory in penalty kicks sealed the deal. The Women of Troy ended their season with a 17-2-3 record.
“I thought you saw two fantastic teams battle it out all the way through, very similar to the fall except this time we had penalty kicks to deal with at the end,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “I thought you could see the ebbs and flows in the game throughout, but both teams put it out there.”
It was a high intensity game from the beginning, as the Seminoles challenged the Trojans. Florida State dominated possession for most of the first half, but goaltending by sophomore Kaylie Collins helped the Trojans hold the Seminoles to a scoreless half.
McAlpine said that there’s a reason why the coaches in the league voted her the best goalkeeper in the Pac-12.
“You have to have a quality goalkeeping to advance at this time of the year,” McAlpine said. “Kaylie has been strong for us all year.”
USC got on the board first with a strike from freshman attacker Penelope Hocking in the 37th minute. Hocking drove the ball into the box and fired her shot over the head of the Seminole goalie into the upper-left corner. The Trojans took the 1-0 lead into the second half.
“[Hocking is] just special,” McAlpine said. “She’s one of the most competitive people out there. There’s such thing as natural goal scorers — she is one of those people. She has that knack.”
The second half featured more balanced possession, with both teams fighting to post points up on the board. The Trojan midfield was on fire in the second half, challenging and intercepting balls from the Seminoles.
“Florida State possession is spectacular,” McAlpine said. “But we know we have a great tempo by which we play and it causes people problems. You got to see a little bit of that in the first half, they had it. [In the] second half we wore them down a little bit and were able to find a little bit more of the play.”
A goal from the Seminoles in the 64th minute equalized the score. Florida State attacker Dallas Dorosy sent a header into the back of the goal off of a Seminole corner kick. The Trojan defense and midfield set up scoring opportunities for its offense, posting a 9-6 shot advantage in the second half. However, the Seminoles put up a strong front and a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation, which pushed the game into overtime.
With both teams fighting to post a goal, the nine-minute overtime was scoreless and catapulted the two teams into a double overtime.
FSU dominated possession in the second overtime, but the Trojan defense did not give up, stopping all scoring opportunities. The Trojans created some offensive plays, but the second overtime ended scoreless, forcing penalty kicks to decide the winner.
Pruitt’s missed kick resulted in a 5-4 tally in favor of the Seminoles, sending Florida State to the fourth round of the tournament.
“We have to play the games that are in front of us,” McAlpine said after Sunday’s loss. “And today you got to see two teams that have been to College Cups, that have national championships, to understand what that is, play and battle. I just wish it was later, because it was awesome.”