Defending Champs Too Much for 'Cats

The defending national champion Florida St. Seminoles brought the Sunshine State heat to Higgins Soccer Complex on Sunday, downing an overmatched Villanova squad, 5-0, in a non-conference battle. 

The Seminoles, currently ranked No. 6 in the country, used superior size, speed and stamina to dominate an upstart Wildcats’ side which was gunning for their second win over a ranked opponent this season. 

The game marked just the second time in program history that Villanova has played host to the defending national champion. The first such occurrence came back in 1986 when the ‘Cats faced George Mason. 

FSU controlled the game from its onset, putting the Villanova defense on its heels. In the seventh minute, the Seminoles were awarded a questionable PK after the referee blew the whistle on what appeared to be a clean tackle by a Villanova defender. Sophomore forward, Abby Newton, took the ensuing penalty and blasted it past Villanova goalie, Hensley Handcuff, to commence an onslaught of scoring by the visitors.  

In the 22nd minute, Florida St. midfielder Yujje Zhao, of Shanghai, China, got behind the ‘Cats defense and slid a shot into the bottom left corner for her first of two goals on the day.  

Villanova could muster little possession against the relentless on-ball pressure of the Seminoles, and the ‘Cats headed to the half trailing, 2-0. 

Any thoughts of a second half turnaround for Villanova were quickly put to rest by the ACC powerhouse. FSU continued its attack with renewed vigor after halftime, tallying 16 of its 27 shots in the latter 45 minutes. 

Although Handcuff finished the game with eight saves, matching her career high, Deyna Castellanos, Zhao and Malia Berkely each found the back of the net in rapid succession after the half, bringing the score line to its culminating point. 

In the contest, Villanova managed just five total shots, two of which were on goal. The ‘Cats best chance came off a corner in the 58th minute when senior Connor Huggins put a header on goal but was turned aside by Seminoles’ keeper, Brooke Bollinger. 

The victory marks the fourth straight for Florida St., moving them to 6-2 on the year. With the loss, the Wildcats fall to 3-3-1 on the season. 

Villanova next takes the pitch on Thursday for a road matchup against Princeton at 7 p.m.