Following a lackluster first half, the second-seeded Seminoles (20-3-0) got consecutive scores from Kelly Rowland and India Trotter to break out of the scoreless deadlock with the No. 6 Bears (16-4-2).
A rematch with top-ranked North Carolina awaits FSU on Friday, the location of which will be announced by the NCAA Monday afternoon. The Tar Heels defeated the Seminoles 4-1 in Tallahassee back on Sept. 22.
"This wasn't our best performance of the year and there have been two or three games where we haven't played at our highest level and still been able to win the games," said first-year FSU coach Mark Krikorian. "That is a credit to this team."
Steady rain showers cast uncharacteristic sloppiness into the Seminoles' ball-control attack in the early stages.
FSU also had to contend with the loss of right forward Kirsten can de Ven to a knee injury in the 27th minute.
But Krikorian's contingency worked – shifted up from the midfield, Trotter connected on what would become the clinching goal to put FSU up 2-0 in the 85th minute. Rowland, a defender, booked the first score of the match on a hooking corner kick that Cal goalie Ashley Sulprizio lost track of before it caromed off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
The Bears, who managed just one corner kick in the match, got on the board in the game's final seconds when Katie Ratican banged a bouncing shot past FSU keeper Ali Mims.
"I thought the first goal was important, but I thought the second goal was even more important for us," Krikorian said. "Had they scored the second goal I think it may have really changed this game."
Active defense by the Bears allowed FSU just five shots on goal, but the opportunistic Seminoles made the most of Cal slipups.
"This is as good a defense as we have faced all year," Trotter said. "They challenged us up front but we did a good job as well of breaking them down on a few occasions. As spread out as they were, we had to attack them right down the middle."
Mims stopped six shots in the match, adding to her school record for career saves. Sulprizio, her counterpart, tallied three saves.
"It was every bit of a good game that we thought it would be," Cal coach Kevin Boyd said. "If you were a fan today, I'm sure you enjoyed the soccer. It was good soccer and it was competitive. It was a battle."
Soccer Sweet in 2-1 Win
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