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After a thrilling win in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, the top-ranked and No. 1 seed Florida State soccer team will face fellow ACC power Virginia on Thursday with a trip to the national championship game on the line.

The teams will square off at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

FSU head coach Mark Krikorian said the Seminoles are thrilled to be back in the pandemic-delayed College Cup after their whirlwind 2020 season. Since clinching an appearance in the NCAA Tournament last fall, FSU has patiently waited five months to finally compete for a shot at its third national title.

“The fact that we’re here, playing in hopefully the back end of a pandemic,” Krikorian said. “Thankful that we have had the opportunity that we have to compete and play against all these great schools.”

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In their lone regular-season contest earlier this year, Florida State jumped out with three quick goals in the first period and outpaced Virginia, 4-3. Since that game in October, both teams have undergone roster turnover that may lead to a different feel for their national semifinal rematch.

“I’m not sure it’s as relevant as it may be if we were playing them in the regular season in the fall, with the NCAA Tournament coming in the spring,” Krikorian said. “The personnel is different now. Both of us are at different points with injuries and how different players are playing versus how they were in the fall.”

Despite that, the familiarity between the two programs and their respective rosters will still be a major factor Thursday.

“We know each other quite well. A lot of our kids have played with their kids in different national team events and so on,” the Seminoles’ head coach said. “We know that they’re athletic and really dynamic in terms of their attack. They have been forever.”

The matchup not only features two national powers, but also two of the most accomplished coaches in the country. Krikorian, who has led the Seminoles to 10 of their 11 all-time College Cup appearances, is by far the winningest coach in FSU history.

“We always know what to expect with them,” Cavaliers head coach Steve Swanson said. “They’re very well-coached. We’re going to have to play well to beat them. We know that.”

Swanson is in his 20th season with Virginia and has twice won ACC Coach of the Year. Virginia has reached the NCAA Tournament every season under Swanson, and this is the Cavaliers’ third College Cup appearance with him at the helm.

“I am not sure how many coaches out there are better than Steve Swanson,” Krikorian said. “So we know that they are going to be extremely organized and prepared and have a great game plan. I’m sure they’ll have great execution as well.”

This won’t be the first time FSU and Virginia have faced off deep into the tournament. The Seminoles captured their first national title in school history when they defeated UVA, 1-0, in the 2014 national championship game.

And it definitely isn’t uncommon for an ACC program to appear in the women’s title game. Seven of the past nine championship games have featured a member of the ACC.

With FSU, UVA and North Carolina being three of the four schools still standing, that trend is guaranteed to continue this season.

“I think we all recognize and appreciate the strength of the conference,” Krikorian said.

Both head coaches pointed out that the sport of women’s soccer as a whole is very fortunate to even have a College Cup this season. They praised the maturity of their players and the response from their teams when it came to testing, quarantining, and navigating the fluid schedule throughout the pandemic.

“We have a lot of older kids who are sensible,” Krikorian said. “They’ve taken everything in stride. They’ve dealt with everything that has come at them. When I look around the country and I watch all of these other programs, what a fantastic job those kids have done and their staffs have done to get to this stage.”

With a win against Virginia, Florida State could clinch its fifth title game appearance in program history and face the winner of UNC and Santa Clara on the other side of the bracket. The women’s soccer national championship game is set for Monday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU.


Talk about this story with other Florida State sports fans in the Tribal Council