TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Samford University soccer team's historic 2016 season came to an end Saturday as the Bulldogs suffered a 4-0 road defeat at the hands of the No. 10-ranked Florida State Seminoles in an opening-round contest of the NCAA tournament held at the Seminole Soccer Stadium.
"We always knew it was a tough draw," said Samford head coach Todd Yelton. "I mean, when you get Florida State, they were preseason number one. In my mind, Mark (Krikorian) is probably the best coach in the country. You know it's tough the way the tournament is set up when No. 17 gets No. 33 in the RPI and so we knew it was going to be a big challenge and we'd be swimming upstream."
Samford (15-4-2), which entered Saturday's contest in the midst of a 10-match winning streak, lost its first game since Sept. 25. The Bulldogs' 10-match streak tied their longest in school history.
Samford's only losses this season came against Georgia, No. 24-ranked Auburn, Furman and No. 10 Florida State (14-3-4). The Bulldogs, not averse to scheduling some of the top teams in the nation in the pre-conference portion of its schedule, defeated both Baylor, 1-0, and Alabama, 1-0, earlier this season, while also playing to road draws at South Alabama, 0-0, and Rice, 3-3.
On Saturday, against its highest-ranked opponent since playing host to No. 3-ranked Virginia on Sept. 7, 2014, Samford allowed an early goal from Florida State as the Seminoles struck quickly with a goal from Malia Berkely in the third minute of action, her first of the season.
"The hard part was when we gave up that goal in the first three minutes," Yelton said. "It totally changed the game, because we had to come out and try to press and get it back and that opened us up, and against a team that passes as well as Florida State, it's difficult."
In 2011, Samford earned its third trip to the NCAA tournament in school history and was also sent to the Tallahassee Regional to face the No. 6-ranked Seminoles. The Bulldogs battled hard in the contest, but ultimately came up short in a 2-0 decision.
"Well, I can tell you this, in 2011 we came here because the NCAA sent us here again, and at halftime it was 0-0," said Yelton. "What happened at that point was that all the pressure switched to Florida State. Giving up the early goal puts all the pressure on us. Then you start chasing the game and I can assure you there is no better team in the country at spacing than Florida State, so trying to press them is probably the most challenging thing you do on a soccer pitch, in my opinion."
Florida State held Samford scoreless for only the second time all season. The Bulldogs opened the 2016 campaign with a 0-0 draw at South Alabama but then rattled off a school-record 19 straight matches with at least one goal scored.
Samford finished the season with a program-best 49 goals scored this year and was ranked No. 9 in the nation in scoring offense.
"We have two fantastic forwards in Jermaine (Seoposenwe) and Mack (Malcanisha Kelley), and Jermaine played in the Olympics before she joined us in August," Yelton said. "When you can keep those two off the board, I think you have something there. Very few teams have been able to do that to us this year, that's even from the teams that we've played in the Power Five.
"So if you want to keep them from scoring, I think you have to be super compact or you have to be athletic enough to apply pressure to them. Once we let up the early goal we had to go press and probably lacked a bit of athleticism to be able to do that."
Florida State, which recently won its fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship Sunday, tacked on its second goal in the first half and then posted two more in the final frame to garner its 4-0 victory.
The Seminoles outshot Samford, 18-4, and won the corner kick battle, 9-3. Half of Florida State's shot attempts were on-goal, while the Bulldogs finished with one.
"I really enjoyed the match and I respect Florida State," said Samford forward Jermaine Seoposenwe. "I think they are a really good team. They pass the ball well and I think they'll go really far in the NCAA tournament."
Samford's 15 wins tied a school record this season. The Bulldogs have achieved the feat three times in school history, with similar win totals in both 2005 and 2007.