The No. 8 Virginia women’s soccer team reached the fourth ACC Tournament final in school history, the first since 2005, with a 4-2 semifinal win over second-ranked Florida State on Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Cavaliers improve to 15-4-1 overall with the win, while the ACC regular season champion Seminoles fall to 16-3 on the season.
Sophomore midfielder Morgan Brian led the way for Virginia with a two-goal, one-assist performance. Caroline Miller and Erica Hollenberg also scored for the Cavaliers, who had their highest-scoring game in the ACC Tournament since an 8-0 rout of Virginia Tech in the 2004 quarterfinals.
“We are absolutely excited to be moving on to the final,” said head coach Steve Swanson. “That was a good team we beat tonight. It is not often they give up four goals. It was a great effort by our team and we are looking forward to the next one on Sunday.”
The Cavaliers jumped out to an early lead during a wild first 12 minutes of the game. Virginia struck first in the fifth minute on Miller’s 15th goal of the season. She received the ball at the top of the box from Gloria Douglas, made a move and fired home a shot just inside the far post. It marked the fourth consecutive game Miller has found the back of the net as she became just the third Cavalier in history to reach the 40 career goal mark.
Virginia doubled its lead five minutes later. Hollenberg threaded a through ball to Brian, who finished the chance for her first goal of the season.
Florida State cut the advantage in half in the 12th minute. After a corner kick, the ball bounced around the box until it fell to Dagny Brynjarsdottir, and the Icelandic international finished her seventh goal of the season.
After that initial scoring flurry, the game settled down for the remainder of the first half and the Cavaliers took the 2-1 advantage into intermission.
Early in the second half the Cavaliers nearly doubled their lead just two minutes after the break. Kate Norbo got in behind the Seminole defense, but her shot was pushed just wide on a fingertip save by FSU keeper Kelsey Wys.
The Seminoles drew even in the 63rd minute as Tiffany McCarty headed in a long cross from Casey Short. It was McCarty’s 10 goal of the season.
The game didn’t remain tied for long as six minutes later the Cavaliers exploded for two goals in a 104-second span. Virginia retook the lead in the 69th minute as Brian beat a defender on the end line and dribbled inside the 6-yard box where she found Hollenberg, who tapped in her second goal of the season.
The Cavaliers doubled their lead again in the 70th minute on Brian’s second goal of the night. After Douglas was fouled about 25 yards out, Julia Roberts sent a free kick into the box that Brian redirected into the corner of the goal on a diving header.
“I thought we had a great start, thanks to Caroline and Morgan scoring a couple of outstanding goals,” said Swanson. “We were a little disappointed to give up the goals that we did, but Florida State is the type of team that isn’t going to quit. I thought our players responded really well after they tied it up, creating a lot of chances and finished those two goals to put us back ahead.”
The five-point (two goals, one assist) night for Brian gave her more points on Friday than she had over her first 10 games of the season (four points).
“When we first got back from Japan, I was just trying to rejoin the team in the middle of the season,” said Brian, who missed the first nine games of the year due to international duty at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. “My teammates have helped me come in and play better soccer with them. It felt good to get that first goal of the season, not because I care about stats, but because it gave our team a two-goal lead in an ACC semifinal.”
The Cavaliers outshot the Seminoles 17-8 in the game, but Florida State had a 6-3 corner kick edge. Danielle DeLisle made three saves in goal for Virginia, while Wys made six at the other end for Florida State.
Virginia will look to win its second ACC Championship on Sunday. The Cavaliers captured the 2004 title, downing North Carolina in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw.
The Cavaliers will play either Maryland or Wake Forest in Sunday’s final. The championship game will start at 1 p.m. at the WakeMed Soccer Park and will air on live on ESPNU.