May 16, 2004
Tallahassee, FL –
Fresh off winning its 10th conference championship in the last 13 years, the fourth-ranked Florida State softball team (57-9) was named a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tallahassee Regional. The Seminoles will open play at 5:30 p.m. versus Northeast Conference champion Long Island University (27-26) at the Seminole Softball Complex. This is the fifth straight year FSU has been to the NCAA Tournament and the 17th time in program history.
“I think we have some very good teams coming to Tallahassee and there will be some great softball played starting Thursday,” said FSU head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “I was a little surprised that only three other teams from the state of Florida were sent here. That’s OK because I think the NCAA is trying to balance things out and that is a good thing.
“I don’t know too much about Long Island but I do know that they are a conference champion and very well coached. We cannot take them lightly. At this level anyone can beat anyone else. We have to be prepared and we will go into this game the same way we would if it were UCLA.”
Florida State was named the fourth-seed overall in the NCAA Tournament, the highest seeding since the tournament expanded to six-team regionals. Florida State has now been a number one seed twice in the last four seasons as they hosted an NCAA Regional as a No. 1 seed in 2001. Florida State and LSU join Pac-10 powers UCLA and Arizona as top four national seeds.
“I think we belong at No.4. The kids have earned that,” said Graf. “It is a great national seed for us and now we have to go out and prove we deserve that. The way to do that is to get to the World Series.”
The Tallahassee Regional (Region 4) features four teams from the state of Florida (No.1 FSU, No.3 South Florida, No. 4 Florida and No. 7 Bethune-Cookman) and one Pac-10 team in second-seeded Oregon. Cal State Northridge is the fifth-seed, Big 10 power Ohio State is the sixth seed, Bethune-Cookman won the MEAC title and garnered a No. 7 seed and Long Island is the eighth seeded squad.
Florida State played just one Region 4 squad during the regular season and that was a win over the Gators. The Seminoles are 65-14 overall versus the Region 4 field and have never faced LIU before. The only two teams in the regional with a winning record versus FSU are Oregon (3-2) and Cal State Northridge (3-0).
“I was very excited when I saw our bracket and seeding. Obviously we already knew we were hosting so that takes a little of the excitement out of it but it is a great regional,” said USA Softball Player of the Year finalist Jessica van der Linden. “There are some great teams coming to Tallahassee. We have only played one of those teams this season so there will be a lot of interesting games between teams unfamiliar with one another.”
“This is a great field with tough teams but I know if we play to our capabilities we have as good of a shot as anyone else,” said ACC Tournament MVP Casey Hunter. “We all feel honored that the NCAA thought enough of our team and season to make us a No. 4 seed.”
Florida State played 26 games versus the 17 teams that made NCAA Regionals in 2004. The Tribe posted a 20-6 mark in those contests for a .769 winning percentage. Last season FSU entered NCAA Regionals on a 27-game winning streak but after a 0-2 showing, this year’s squad knows what they did in the regular season doesn’t mean anything starting Thursday.
“This is a different team than last year and we are going to focus on this team not teams or games in the past,” said senior All-ACC first baseman Beth Wade. “This is a different year. We are more grounded. We had a few losses heading into the ACC Tournament and then really played well this weekend. We are going to take it one day at a time and not think about what happened in 2003.”
“I heard the upperclassmen talking about what happened in regionals last season,” said freshman LaShaun Davis. “We haven’t talked about it as a group this year because we are a different team. There is a confidence on this team right now and we are going to focus on the positives entering Thursday’s game versus a conference champion in Long Island.”
In last year’s regional opener FSU faced a hot Texas-Arlington team that won its conference to reach the NCAA Tournament and that squad upended the second-seeded Seminoles in opening round action. This year LIU is entering the tournament as hot as anyone in America. The Blackbirds started the 2004 season 2-20 but have gone 25-6 since then and will enter the Region 4 Tournament on a three-game winning streak.
“We know that anyone in the NCAA Tournament is capable of beating you and Long Island is no different,” said Wade. “We don’t know a lot about them but we will respect them and know they got here for a reason. We learned that with UTA last season.”
The Region 4 Tournament opens Thursday, May 20 at 10:00 a.m. with South Florida taking on Ohio State. Tickets are no available on seminoles.com or by calling 1-888-FSU-NoLE. For more information on the 2004 ACC Champion Seminoles or the Region 4 Tournament, please log on to the official athletic website for Florida State University at www.seminoles.com.