Nov. 17, 2002
Tallahassee, FL –
Although she isn’t on the Hermann Award watch list or wasn’t voted ACC Player of the Year, FSU striker Cindy Schofield is one of the most special college players playing the game today and in the 2002 NCAA Tournament she is proving that. For the second straight game, Schofield scored a game-winning goal and assisted on an FSU goal as No. 21 Florida State (13-6-3) downed SEC regular season champion Auburn (15-5-2) 2-1 and advanced to the program’s second Sweet 16 in three seasons.
“I am very excited for our players and our program,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “We tried to get to this point (Sweet 16) last year after going in 2000 but came up a little short. It is just an unbelievable feeling to get back to the round of 16 and know that we are one of the few teams that gets to continue to play.”
“This is unbelievable. I am still shaking. It is a great feeling,” said Schofield. “We were there (Sweet 16) in 2000 and came close last year but to finally get there again it is amazing. This team can do so well when we play to our capabilities. I am so happy for everyone because we have all worked so hard from the first day of preseason to now.”
The Seminoles controlled most of the game possessing the ball in the Auburn half for long stretches attempting to break down a very tough Tiger defense and one of the nation’s best keepers in Megan Rivera (13-4-2). The Tribe out shot Auburn 10 to 3, put eight shots on goal compared to just two for the Tigers and forced Rivera into six saves compared to just one for FSU starter Kerry York (13-5-3).
“We wanted to come out with a win today. That’s the way you have to do it. You have to dominate the other team as best as you can,” said freshman forward Leah Gallegos.
“I think we put a premium on possession today. I think physical play is a part of the game but possession is something we take great pride in,” said Baker. “All of our players are technically sound. We want to put the ball on the floor, move it and create movement off the ball. At times we felt Auburn was a little direct and played into our hands because we would get the ball, possess it and try to put the pressure on them. We didn’t get the final ball in as much as we would have liked but we got the one that matter there at the end to spring Cindy (Schofield).”
After playing most of the first seven minutes of the game in Auburn’s half, FSU had its first crack at Rivera. Defender Katie Beal served a long ball straight into the 20 mph wind that landed at the backpost. After an attempted clearance on a Tiger header, sophomore Camie Bybee won the ball in the air and headed her shot on frame but Rivera came up with the save.
The Seminoles capitalized on their next chance with just over 18 minutes gone in the game. Freshman Leah Gallegos was making a run into the Tiger box when she was pulled down on the right side about 22 yards out. Schofield sent a low free kick diagonally to the left post where Bybee and Jez Ratliff were making a run.
“We have never worked on that particular set piece in practice,” said Schofield. “We had a lot of time because someone was fixing their shoe. The wall lined up and there was such a huge gap. I was trying to signal to Jez (Ratliff) that I was going to try to do that. They way the defense was parted it set itself up. The angle was just there. I don’t know how Camie (Bybee) knew what I was planning to do but she made a great run to the backpost.”
Bybee saw the same thing Schofield saw and timed her run perfectly meeting the ball about eight yards away from the net and then slotting the ball just inside the post putting FSU up 1-0. It was Bybee’s second NCAA goal versus Auburn after scoring the game-winner last year in the opening round.
“I didn’t come into today thinking about the goal I scored against them last year because that has nothing to do with this year’s game,” said Bybee. “Cindy (Schofield) slotted an unbelievable ball and I am just happy I was able to step up and put it in.”
The Seminoles almost went into the half with a 2-0 lead if it weren’t for the efforts of Rivera, the back-up keeper on the US U-19 National team. Junior Amber Tollefson put a perfect pass down the middle and behind the defense which landed right at Gallegos’ feet. The freshman put a move on two defenders and fired a point blank shot over the Auburn keeper. Rivera was just able to fist the ball over the crossbar and preserve the lead.
With a 1-0 lead, the Seminoles continued to attack Auburn at the start of the second half. Just one minute in, Schofield found Ratliff running on the right side of the box. Ratliff got in with Rivera but she was so far towards the right side of the goal that Rivera was able to come up with the save.
In the 60th minute FSU had a flurry of activity inside the Tiger box. Bybee played a great ball to Tollefson just inside the left side of the box. Tollefson served the ball to two waiting teammates in the center of the box but the defense got a touch and cleared it right back to Tollefson. The wide midfielder served the ball right back into the box but Rivera snatched the cross almost off of Schofield’s head.
Auburn had one serious threat in the half and the Tigers made it count. In the 64th minute Sarah Steinmann made a run down the far left sideline and then launched a pinpoint service into the FSU box. Christina Culver was making a run and collected the ball between two defenders and just tapped the ball to the backpost to even the match.
“I think they deserve credit for that goal because they created a chance and they stuck it,” said York. “I was personally so upset because our defense had worked so hard and even seconds before that shot both myself and (Katie) Beal saw two girls at the backpost. We were trying to get ourselves re-organized but they played the ball into the perfect spot.”
“The breakdown occurred earlier on that goal,” said Baker. “We lost our shape in the back and Jez (Ratliff) was having to defend Steinmann. She got around the corner and sent a great ball in behind us. We know what Culver is capable of and she hit a great first time ball.”
The goal was the first allowed by York in her NCAA Tournament career. Before Culver’s equalizer, the sophomore from Severna Park, MD had gone more than 243 minutes in NCAA Tournament play without allowing a goal.
“Our defense starts in goal and works out from there to our back four,” said Baker. “I could tell it was going to be a good week for York because of some of the comments she made after the NCAA selection show. She talked about how she wanted to perform and make sure she gave everything she could so our senior class could get back to the Sweet 16. That set the tone.”
On top of the play in goal by York, the FSU defense has been stellar in the NCAA Tournament over the last two seasons. In four games, the Seminole backline has allowed just two goals in 360 minutes. They limited Auburn to its lowest shot total of the season and held them to their fewest shots on goal of the year also.
“We did such a good job of containing them today. I think the only time Yorkie (Kerry York) was called upon was on set pieces,” said Baker. “We did a great job of keeping everybody in front of us and neutralizing Culver and Steinmann. They are good players and Steinmann was the SEC Player of the Year. She created a good chance that they stuck but once again our defense was great today.”
“Everything starts with our defense,” said Schofield. “Our defending has been unbelievable this weekend. They just picked it up a notch. It starts in the back and with York in goal. We are defending well and when you do that it is easy to score goals.”
After the tying goal, FSU didn’t get another serious attack until almost 18 minutes later. After controlling possession most of the game, the Tribe entered the final 10 minutes tied with the prospect of overtime staring them in the face.
“I thought the Auburn goal changed the complexion of the game and gave them a huge shot in the arm,” said Baker. “After the next eight minutes when things calmed down, we really started to assert ourselves again. To be honest with you, I never really thought about overtime. In fact I didn’t think, up until the point that they scored, that we were going to lose.”
With eight minutes remaining in the game, FSU looked like they would be able to avoid overtime as Gallegos and Schofield once again combined to produce a dangerous opportunity. Schofield played Gallegos into the box on the right side. The Los Angeles native got in one-on-one with Rivera but the stellar keeper once again was able to punch the ball away preserving the tie.
“That was a beautiful save. There was nothing I could do about that. She deserves all the credit for making the play,” said Gallegos. “I was really hoping that was going to give us the win.
“With 10 minutes remaining I was telling myself that we would and could win that game. With five minutes left, I got a little bit shaky but I was still confident we could pull it out.”
In the 85th minute Florida State looked as if had netted the game-winner. Senior midfielder Jenny Garcia sprung Schofield inside the box and straight on with Rivera. The forward was able to beat the keeper and fire the ball into the open net but Auburn junior Sandy Carnes blocked the ball out of the air and kept Auburn alive.
“I thought that was in. I was cheering already,” said Schofield.
“When we sprung Leah (Gallegos), I thought that was the one,” said Baker. “We really hadn’t got behind them too much and then we finally sprung her behind the defense. Then Cindy had another chance. We talked about how to beat Megan and that was to get balls in behind the defense. pull the keeper off the line and tuck it. We felt the game-winner was coming though. Even the players on the bench kept screaming that it was coming.”
A minute after Schofield’s near miss, the Tribe attacked again. Garcia sent another phenomenal ball down the center of the pitch that hit Gallegos at the top of the 18. The freshman took one touch and slide the ball into Schofield who was making another well-timed run.
“Everything happened pretty quickly,” said Gallegos. “As the ball was played, I saw Cindy (Schofield) out of the corner of my eye and I knew she could get the goal.”
The touch pass was perfect and Schofield slipped the ball in at the near post giving FSU a 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Jenny (Garcia) played Leah (Gallegos) a great ball and both defenders drew to her,” said Schofield. “They just converged on Leah and I saw her with her back to goal and she knew I was there. She played an unbelievable ball. It was a perfect touch and I was wide open. I got in the seam and slotted it.”
“Leah (Gallegos) is a dribbling queen but she can also make things happen for others. Two players went to her because Auburn was trying to double team her all game and she realized what was happening and slipped a great ball in. It was beautiful execution. Jenny (Garcia) has been instrumental in two of our three goals this weekend and she did a great job helping set up those scoring opportunities for us.”
The game-winner was Schofield’s second of the weekend as she also scored the first goal in Florida State’s 2-0 win over Ole Miss. In two games in the 2002 NCAA Tournament, Schofield now has six points on two goals and an assist. It was also the 22nd time in her career that she has recorded three or more points in a game. She now has 103 points in her career and is the only player in FSU soccer history to ever record more than 100 points.
Florida State will now face No. 4 national seed Connecticut in the Sweet 16. The location, time and date for the match have yet to be determined but please check www.seminoles.com for more information.