Florida State has experienced the thrill of penalty kicks a few times of late.
The Seminoles felt the other side of that emotional roller coaster, the agony of falling in brutal fashion in a penalty kick shootout, on the biggest stage against Santa Clara on Monday night.
The No. 1 FSU soccer team entered Monday’s College Cup Final looking to win their third national championship and finish off the first undefeated season in program history.
The Seminoles (13-1-1) took a 1-0 lead into the final minutes, but surrendered a late equalizer and fell 4-1 in penalty kicks to No. 11 Santa Clara (10-1-1) in the national championship match at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
After winning a pair of penalty-kick shootouts in the quarterfinals and semifinals — making all eight of its PKs — to advance to the championship, FSU missed its first two PKs against Santa Clara as both Clara Robbins and Emily Madril hit the right post.
FSU goalkeeper Cristina Roque had been stellar in the Seminoles’ first two shootouts, stopping three attempts. She didn’t have the same luck against Santa Clara as the Broncos hit all four of their penalty kicks, clinching the second national championship in program history and the first in 19 years.
The Seminoles’ loss brings them one loss short of being the first undefeated women’s college soccer team since Stanford finished the 2011 season 23-0.
The PK loss denies the Seminoles their second national championship in three years and third in the last seven. FSU is now 2-3 all-time in national championship games, all of which have come since 2007.
Seminoles can’t close it in regulation
The Seminoles were mere minutes away from closing out the game in regulation.
After controlling the majority of the match, FSU finally broke through in the 63rd minute when Jenna Nighswonger was rewarded for a remarkable individual play.
The sophomore midfielder/forward from Huntington Beach, Calif. received a pass from Yujie Zhao at the edge of the 18-yard box. She took a few touches and curled a shot from just inside the box that glanced perfectly off the post and into the back of the net past Santa Clara goalkeeper Marlee Nicolos.
It was Nighswonger’s fifth goal of the season, but her first goal of the NCAA Tournament. It also snapped a drought of no FSU goals over a span of 304 minutes since the Seminoles’ Sweet 16 win over Penn State.
Santa Clara began pushing numbers forward after falling behind. That effort paid off when the Broncos pounced on a critical FSU mistake in the closing minutes. FSU midfielder Kirsten Pavlisko made an errant backward pass in the defending third that found Santa Clara’s Kelsey Turnbow.
Turnbow took advantage of the mistake and a slip from FSU defender Emily Madril on the wet field to bury a shot into the left corner of the net, tying the game at one with 6:53 left in regulation.
This late equalizer forced FSU to face its third straight overtime match.
FSU was the more dangerous team in the two 10-minute overtime periods, but was unable to find the back of the net for what would have been a sudden-death victory. The closest chance came when midfielder Yujie Zhao hit the crossbar late in the first overtime period.
Follow the Tallahassee Democrat’s Curt Weiler on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.