LeiLanni Nesbeth’s Florida State University crowned NCAA national champions
LeiLanni Nesbeth and her Florida State University team-mates lived up to their No 1 ranking after capturing a third NCAA National Championship title in a decade in Santa Clara, California last night.
The top seeds edged out No 13 seeds BYU 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out after 90 minutes and extra time failed to separate the two sides in front of 7087 spectators at the Stevens Stadium.
“Obviously a great result. Definitely pleased with the outcome and to be able to be national champions,” an elated Nesbeth told The Royal Gazette.
“Definitely wasn’t an easy one. BYU is obviously a great opponent and they battled and they fought.
“I think both teams were getting good looks on the goal but weren’t able to put it away. And then obviously the penalties our goalkeeper (Cristina Roque) came through with. Two really good saves and then we were just able to execute on our penalties.
“It was definitely good to be able to finish the match like that and to be able to be successful and be national champions so definitely a lot to celebrate.”
Florida State lost on penalties in the championship match last year but would not suffer the same fate this time around thanks in no small part to Roque’s heroics between the sticks.
“I feel like I had a lot of trust in my team-mates, everyone who was stepping up to kick the ball especially (Zhao) finishing it off,” she commented on the school’s website.
“I feel like everyone is behind me no matter which way it goes just how last year it didn’t just go our way and everyone was behind me then. I knew whatever happened this year they were going to be behind me. I’m not gonna lie it does feel better here.”
Youjie Zhao finished the job off, slotting home the game winning penalty to ignite the wild celebrations among her team-mates.
“That was a great feeling,” she said. “I have a faith … It’s a little unfortunate we didn’t score a goal in the regular time but I have a faith that we are going to win in PKs.”
Mark Krikorian, the Florida State coach, was equally thrilled to come away with the desired outcome having come up just short last year.
“It feels quite nice to be sitting on this side of it,” he said. “Last year I thought that we were quite good and we had some unfinished business we needed to address.
“Everyone that was here was treated to a heck of a soccer game with two very good teams. I thought BYU gave us everything we could handle.
“Extremely proud of our group. I thought we played well, played smart, played hard but BYU matched us all the way.
“Heck of a national championship. Heck of a final.”
BYU had a couple of good chances and a goal waved offside in the first half.
Both teams threatened late in the second half, with Florida State’s Jamaican forward Jody Brown dragging her effort wide from close range and BYU midfielder Jamie Shepherd firing over at the opposite end.
Brown also had a shot blocked in front of goal after a headed clearance from Zhao’s corner came off the cross bar into her path.
Florida State threatened again in extra time with Beata Olsson’s effort from point-blank range being blocked and Brown losing her footing as she attempted to pounce on the rebound.
BYU goalkeeper Cassidy Smith then saved a shot from Florida State forward Jenna Nighswonger to send the game to penalties.