Oct. 25, 2001
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
The Florida State soccer team has just two home matches left in the regular season and it will start its push towards a second straight NCAA Tournament bid tonight when it faces the University of Miami at 7:00 p.m. The Hurricanes (8-6-1, 3-2-0) come into tonight’s match having won just two of its last nine matches since a 6-0-0 start. The Seminoles (10-5-0, 3-2-0), on the other hand, have won five of their last seven matches and are undefeated at home this season (6-0-0).
“You definitely have to look at trends anytime you enter a match,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “One of the trends we talked about this week is that we’ve only lost back-to-back games once this season and once last season. Let’s not have it happen now. They are 1-4-1 in their last six games and that trend is either going to continue or end tonight on our field. The same goes for us.
“All I can tell you is that our group is very excited to be home after being on the road 12 of the last 24 days. That’s tough. We’ve been living out of suitcases, on the bus, on airplanes and in airports so it’s just nice to be home. We’ve been successful at home and hopefully that continues tonight.”
Besides getting off to the best start in team history at home, FSU has also won 16 consecutive non-conference home games. The Seminoles last home loss came against Miami in the home opener of the 1999 season. It has been almost three full seasons since a non-conference foe came into the Seminole Soccer Complex and defeated Florida State.
“We have tried to make our home field a difficult place to play since we took over the program,” said Baker. “Part of that is raising our level of play and another part of that is the great fan support we get from the university and the community. We told our girls we have the opportunity to go undefeated at home and we are two steps away from accomplishing that. Tonight is the first step.”
This evening’s game was originally scheduled for September 12, 2001 but was postponed due to the terrorist attacks on the United States. At the time, FSU was coming off of back-to-back losses to No. 2 Santa Clara and No. 6 Portland while UM was 5-0 and had just upset the 12th-ranked Gators 1-0 in Gainesville. The late-season match-up between the in-state rivals is tough considering the close relationship between Baker and Miami coach Jim Blankenship.
“I saw him (Blankenship) this morning before their practice and asked him if we really had to play this one,” said Baker. “We purposely scheduled this game early on so whoever lost would have time to recover throughout the season. Now it is one of the last games and it will be hard to make an impression with so few games remaining. Miami has a winning record and a win over us would give them nine wins and really boost their tournament chances.”
Although tonight’s game is a non-conference match, it is a big game considering both teams are in the same region, which is a key factor when it comes to NCAA Tournament selection time. Florida State has won 14 of its last 15 games against in-state opponents and has already notched an impressive regional road victory at Clemson. The Hurricanes have a big road win over Florida and the winner of tonight’s match will have an edge in the region when those NCAA bids go out November 12.
“This is a huge regional match-up,” said Baker. “Depending on who you talk to, we are sitting fourth or fifth in the region and they are either fifth or sixth. They have a huge regional win over the Gators, which we don’t have so I think head-to-head would come into play down the road.
“We’ve seen them play twice and they’ve seen us play three times. We know their players and staff very well and they know us. There aren’t any secrets there. Tonight’s match will be decided by a lot of the little things.”
Florida State is looking for a huge home crowd this evening and has teamed up with Seminole Athletics Marketing to try and break the single season attendance record of 1,582 set against North Carolina last season. Tonight’s match will feature free FSU soccer t-shirts to first 200 fans, chances to win Nike gear, ACC Soccer Tournament passes, free pizza, video rentals and more. WHBX 96.1 will be live at the Seminole Soccer Complex tonight at front entrance and the FSU cheerleaders will be handing out shakers to first 500 fans.
“We hope to have a great crowd tonight and we can put on a great performance for them,” said Baker. “We feed off of the energy of the crowd and with them behind us, hopefully everything else will take care of itself.”