(1) Florida State vs Boston College – Friday, 3:00 PM
1. Can Boston College Do THAT Again?
For all the yammering about Boston College’s perceived inconsistency this season (and really beyond this season), they put up back-to-back bravura performances in the NCAA Tournament last weekend against Nebraska and Illinois to advance to this point. The offense, which hit a wall against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament has been resplendent since, scoring ten goals in three games, with McKenzie Meehan and Stephanie McCaffrey blitzing opposing defenses in the Big Dance. Yet most of the questions about this team are inevitably going to be on defense. The Eagles haven’t kept too many clean sheets against top teams this season and also conceded in both of the games last weekend as well. The good news may be that BC still has a streak of six straight without conceding multiple goals coming into Friday. The bad news is that Florida State was not part of that streak, and the Noles managed to hit BC for four goals earlier in the season in Tallahassee.
2. Do the Eagles Have An Answer for Brynjarsdottir?
In the regular season meeting, Boston College did better than most have against the Icelandic international this season, holding her to just a single shot on goal. Brynjarsdottir still assisted on the goal that sparked FSU’s comeback though and has been in electric form in the NCAA Tournament for the Noles. She began with the winner against Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament final and scored two goals in each of the club’s wins last weekend. Operating as a #10 in a 4-2-3-1 or as a second striker in a 4-4-2, Brynjarsdottir is deadly breaking forward in the attack and has been vital for FSU’s offense this year. The question is whether BC can stop her, a question that may come down to tactics. If FSU runs out in a 4-4-2, she’ll likely fall to either Zoe Lombard or Casey Morrison, the club’s likely center-backs. But if Brynjarsdottir starts as a #10, she’ll have to be tracked by the midfield, most likely Gibby Wagner and/or Jana Jeffrey, who played centrally in a 4-4-2. In form Hayley Dowd might get a start in a more attacking formation though, which could leave Wagner, Lauren Bernard, and Kate McCarthy as a trio in midfield to try and slow down FSU’s rampaging Icelandic star. No matter who is doing the marking, BC has to find a way to keep Brynjarsdottir’s influence to a minimum if they’re to win.
3. How Will FSU’s Defense Cope With The Boston College Forwards?
It’s a pretty simple equation: If Florida State can put the clamps on Meehan and McCaffrey (and to another extent, Dowd), Boston College is probably going down and going down hard. Can they do what so many others haven’t been able to do as of late though? Nebraska’s defense had done well enough to win the double in the Big Ten but got sawed through in decisive fashion by BC. The regular season meeting between these two might be a little instructive, as Meehan went crazy and scored a couple of goals in the first fifteen minutes to give the Eagles an early lead. She’d only put one more shot on goal the rest of the game though, and McCaffrey had just one in almost ninety minutes, showing the Noles adjusted well after the initial shock. If they can keep that late game form up from the get go on Friday, FSU should advance comfortably. If they get caught cold again, this one in Tallahassee becomes much more intriguing.
4. How Will Both Teams Adjust From The Regular Season Meeting?
One year ago, Boston College and Florida State also played twice, once in the league and once in the ACC Tournament. BC also came out to a hot start last season against Florida State, though they did manage to hold on to win that regular season match by a 3-2 score, shocking the high flying Noles. Just ten days later though, Florida State wiped Boston College out, winning by a decisive 4-0 margin. There’s a caveat in that example in that Kristie Mewis was out injured for BC, but it still goes a long way in showing how Florida State has successfully made adjustments against foes in the past, specifically Boston College. FSU (obviously) won every rematch in the ACC Tournament against clubs they had faced in the regular season (they had won all three of those too), showing that the club certainly hasn’t lost anything upon other foes getting a second bite of the apple against them. It’ll probably come down to how long FSU takes to get a foothold on the match. If they come out dialed in right away, they’ll probably win easily. If BC’s adjustments cause problems early, they could well find room to pounce, as was the case in the opening minutes on October.
5. Can Boston College Keep Their Nerve For Ninety (or More) Minutes?
It sounds stupidly obvious, but Boston College has to put together a complete performance against Florida State to stand a chance of gatecrashing the College Cup next week. They’ve been nauseatingly up and down in many games this season, such as the goalfests against Hofstra, Miami (FL), and NC State. There’s also the very important example of the 4-3 loss to FSU earlier in the season when they came out like a house afire in the opening quarter of an hour, scoring twice. They’d go on to concede three straight out of the break though, got an equalizer, but then promptly conceded a fourth and decisive goal just four minutes later. If the Eagles can’t keep their cool in Tallahassee, they’re probably going to come away empty-handed. Given the history of trouble BC has given FSU over the past half-decade, you certainly wouldn’t call this a gimme by any stretch for the home side. At the same time though, this is an FSU team that very rarely trips up against a team its favored against in this competition. I think the Eagles will put a few scares into the home side, but FSU will ultimately punch their ticket to Cary.
Prediction – Florida State 3 – 1 Boston College