After a six-game home stand in which the Hurricanes played .500 soccer, the Miami women’s team will travel to Tallahassee this weekend to take on the No. 3-ranked Florida State Seminoles.
The Canes (5-3-0) are looking to bounce back after a disappointing finish to six straight games at Cobb Stadium, when they were held scoreless in their final two. After a hot-scoring start to the season, the team has mustered only two goals in its last four matches.
The Seminoles (5-1-0), on the other hand, sit high up in the national rankings with significant victories over then No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 17 Connecticut. Their lone loss came on the road against unranked South Alabama.
“FSU is always one of the best teams in the country, and we are just preparing our team to have confidence,” Head Coach Mary Frances-Monroe said after practice Wednesday. “We have to be very organized; as long as we do that, we’ll find success.”
Miami is seeking to pick up some of the momentum it lost after a promising 5-1 start and looks to make a statement against rival FSU. The Hurricanes, featuring strong offensive talent in the likes of freshman forward Kristina Fisher and senior forward Gracie Lachowecki, have seen rapid stagnation in scoring output ever since their 7-0 rout of Jacksonville University two weeks ago. Miami went on to win two straight 1-0 games and then lose two straight 1-0 games, forcing the team to rethink its approach for facing off against the suffocating Seminole defense that has allowed only one goal in its six games so far this season.
“I think as a team, the first few games we came out really showing what we can do, but since then we have gotten a little complacent,” junior forward Ronnie Johnson said. “Playing against one of the best teams in the nation this weekend, it will be different for us. We are going to do really well this weekend.”
In order for the Canes to pull off the upset victory this Sunday, they will have to enlist their forwards in a serious offensive push – one that hasn’t been there in the past few weeks. Fisher, who earned NSCAA College Player of the Week honors in August for scoring six goals in six games, has cooled off a bit, but will have to return to her early-season form if Miami has any chance at knocking off the No. 3 team in the country. However, the freshman can’t do it alone, nor can Lachowecki do the bulk of the team’s shooting as she has in the past few games. The offense will have to see more interaction from veteran forwards who have been out of the spotlight in the early weeks of the season. They can’t rely on two goal scorers to steal a game from arguably the nation’s top defense.
“We want to stay compact in the midfield and not let them play through us,” senior midfielder and defender Gianna Dal Pozzo said. “We want to counter well and capitalize on what they give us.”
The Hurricane defense has been a bright spot all season, with redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce recording shutouts in all of the team’s five wins. Tullis-Joyce, along with standout defenders Madison Louk and captain Shannon McCarthy, look to maintain that dominance in Tallahassee. Another strong defensive effort will provide a solid foundation of which the offense can execute its game plan and keep the match competitive.
“We want to keep making tackles and big-time plays,” McCarthy said of the team’s defense. “When our offense knows that they have a solid line behind them, they are going to be able to do their job because they can trust us and rely on our unit to get our job done.”
The Seminoles have shown that they aren’t perfect, and the Canes should be able to capitalize on that if they can find a way to expose FSU’s defense. In what certainly won’t be an easy task, the Miami Hurricanes have what it takes to spoil Florida State’s No. 3 national ranking in hostile Tallahassee.
The match is slated for 1 p.m. Sunday at the Seminole Soccer Complex.