April 17, 2003
Tallahassee, FL –
Two years ago the Florida State soccer team played an entire spring without a goalkeeper due to the graduation of the team’s one and only net minder. This year the Tribe went an entire spring without allowing a goal. My how times have changed. With a 1-0 win over Loyola Marymount and a 0-0 tie against San Diego, FSU completed 650 minutes of spring soccer without allowing a goal, scoring 17 and posting a 5-0-3 record.
“It is a good sign when you don’t allow a goal all spring. I am not sure what we do with that but it is something we can definitely build off when we enter preseason. To have that many young players playing and for us to still not allow a goal all spring represents a great group effort. It is exciting,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “It creates a little bit of a mentality going into the off-season for our team and our defense as a whole.
“Overall, I think we had our best spring ever from the standpoint of production. In the spring of 2000 we probably came the farthest but we had so far to come at that point in the program’s evolution. This year I feel like we really made great strides to come this far this quickly. I thought our players handled the spring very well. There were a lot of good signs from player development within their training that translated into the games.”
The Seminoles saved their stiffest test of the spring season for last as they traveled across country to face two teams who participated in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. First up was Loyola-Marymount and a homecoming for Los Angeles, CA native Leah Gallegos. In front of her hometown crowd, Gallegos scored her fifth goal of the spring, which turned out to be the game-winner in the 1-0 contest.
“I don’t think we really had our legs for that first game with LMU but Leah scored in front of the home crowd to give us a 1-0 win,” said Baker. “We probably didn’t play our best soccer, and you have to give LMU some credit for that, we defended well and gave ourselves a chance to win. I told the team that was a game we probably would have lost two years ago. It was great to find the resolve and win.”
After a day off the Tribe returned to the field to face the University of San Diego. Sophomore keeper Joy McKenzie, who has started for the first time in her collegiate career this spring, played a starring role as she answered the bell whenever she was tested. Although unable to sneak in the game-winner, FSU once again created chances and finished the spring with another shutout.
“We spent a great day down on Pacific Beach Saturday and then went to USD, which is a beautiful campus,” said Baker. “Unfortunately we had to play the game on their practice field, which was a little short and tight. It did however lead to some great end-to-end action and we ended up tying 0-0. Both teams created some good chances and both keepers came up with some big saves. It was very much like an NCAA Tournament game. Either team could of won.
“When it was all said and done, our trip to California was fantastic. To play the likes of Loyola-Marymount and Sand Diego, who both made the NCA Tournament, was great for us. It was a great experience playing both of those schools.”
McKenzie, a Houston, TX native, was probably the most scrutinized player this spring and deserves some of the credit for the shutout streak. While Baker is quick to credit great team defending for the success, he was impressed with what he saw of the keeper this spring.
“Joy probably wasn’t tested too much before the trip to California but that changed on the west coast. She was tested more often this past weekend and she came up big against San Diego,” said Baker. “She gained the most this spring and was given around of applause by her teammates after the USD game. She was tested and came up big. She gained a great deal of confidence this spring due to the amount of playing time she received with Ali Mims and Kerry York sidelined. Her teammates have confidence in her and that is special.
“We are relatively young at the keeper position but I feel good about our goalkeeping. That will probably be our most competitive position. We have three young and talented keepers who have proven themselves at one point or another.”
In the other three areas, defense, midfield and forward, Baker returns seven of 10 starters from last season so the spring was more about developing relationships on the field and a little bit of competition for essentially two open spots. Defensively, the 2003 edition of Seminole soccer could be the best defensive team Baker has ever worked with since arriving in Tallahassee.
“The central part of our defense has been one of the strongest pieces in the overall element of defending. Katie Beal and Teresa Rivera developed a great understanding between one another. Last year the barely got on the field together but they made some great strides in the spring,” said Baker. “I really like the progress that has been made in the back. Kristin Boyce is a mainstay. Beal and Teresa are fantastic. Marion Cagle and Jessica Bell have been fighting it out this spring for that last spot.”
At the risk of sounding repetitive, Baker feels just as strong about a midfield that also returns three of its four starters. Oklahoman’s Jez Ratliff and Camie Bybee and two-time team captain Amber Tollefson are set in their positions. Nobody came out of the spring with a stranglehold on the open holding midfield position but Baker liked a lot of what he saw.
“I was very pleased with our midfield play. Camie Bybee was exceptional this fall in the center of our midfield. Amber Tollefson had one of the best spring campaigns and Jez Ratliff was great on the other side,” he said.
“We have three of four returning in the midfield and the hole we are going to have to fill is at the holding midfielder spot. Is it going to be Sarah Rosseau, Erica Lewis, Erin Brown or one of the incoming freshmen who has to take over for Jenny Garcia?”
While you can never replace a player of the caliber of two-time first team All-ACC forward Cindy Schofield, Baker is happy with what is developing up top between Gallegos and freshman Alli Ferreri. Ferreri has been flourishing up top since making the move late in 2002 and Gallegos was a member of the 2002 All-ACC rookie team.
“Leah Gallegos scored a lot of goals for us. We were looking for someone who can find the back of the net on a regular basis,” said Baker. “Alli made great strides up top and she has found a home. Her and Leah continually gained a greater understanding and position for one another throughout the spring. They made a difference for us. Stephanie Dame came on as well so everyone made positive strides but at the same time we feel very good about the class coming in and the holes they will be able to fill.”
With five weeks of spring soccer behind them, Baker feels as good about his team as at any point in his previous four years. So many times in the past when he was building this program, he had to wait until the next class came in to get a real picture of what he had to work with. That isn’t the case this spring.
“We feel that we have a very strong nucleus coming back. At the end of the spring you have to feel comfortable enough with your team that if you had to step out and play with this group you’d be ready. If we were to start tomorrow, not only would we be ready but I would also be very excited with this group. That isn’t meant to take anything away from the recruiting class we have coming in,” said Baker.
With four months off now, the ball is in the players court in the sense of continuing to build on what they did this spring as the turn an eye toward preseason. Baker wants them to get away from things a little bit but also be excited for what he feels will be another successful fall campaign as FSU looks to make its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
“We are trying to preach to the girls that they need to use this successful spring as a springboard to the preseason. It is a long way off and I know that they need some time off. They will get that now and an opportunity to reflect on things and focus on school,” said Baker. “I think they are looking forward to that opening weekend when we play host to two nationally ranked teams in Penn State and Southern Cal. There will be a lot of people watching those results that weekend and the hard work has already begun with an eye toward the opener.”