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Sept. 7, 2001
Winston-Salem, NC –
The Florida State soccer team (2-0), ranked as high as No. 7 in one national poll, will continue to look for respect on the national stage when they face third-ranked Portland (1-1-0) at the Wake Forest/Nike Invitational Friday at 5:30 p.m. The match-up features two teams that were in the final 16 of the 2000 NCAA Tournament and marks one of the toughest early season tests in the program’s history.
“This is a huge task for us,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “Outside of playing Florida the opening weekend last season, this is probably one of toughest early season tests in our program’s history. Portland is coming off of an appearance in the final Four a year ago and they have a great senior class and some very talented underclassmen. This is an unbelievable opportunity for us to see where we are at right now. I think we are a good team but we’ll find out for sure tonight.”
The Seminoles are coming off an opening weekend that saw FSU post a 2-0 record against two teams that won their respective conference titles in 2000. Florida State opened the season with a 3-2 win over George Mason and followed that up with a dominating performance in a 2-0 win over Loyola College of Maryland. Outside of North Carolina though, Portland is the highest ranked team the Seminoles have faced since Baker took over the program in 1999.
“Playing Portland is definitely going to demand us to defend better than we did that opening weekend,” said Baker. “We aren’t going to be able to rest for one minute of the ninety we are on the field against Portland. I think we will rise to the challenge defensively so the biggest question will be whether we will be able to possess. We did that well this past weekend but it will take an even stronger showing this weekend against a better team.”
Playing highly ranked opponents is nothing new for FSU. The Seminoles play in the nation’s strongest soccer conference and have become accustomed to seeing a ranking in front of almost every conference opponent’s name but it wasn’t until 2000 that FSU knew what it was like to win some of those games. Victories over North Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Wake Forest, three of which were in the Top 10 at the time of the game, has helped the Seminoles feel more confident entering a tournament with the likes of Portland and Santa Clara.
“I said to our team there are probably programs that are as good if not better than most of the team’s in our conference,” said Baker. “Portland is right there. They have been to the Women’s College Cup five of the last seven years and they are 5-1 in NCAA quarterfinal matches. They are accustomed to big games and being successful in big games. Going into this tournament, we are probably the least known team of the four. We are the new kid on the block and nobody really knows about our players or us. We hope to change that by the end of the weekend.
“I told our kids we faced some great programs last year and we were in every game with the game within reach in the final minutes. We lost some of those and we won some but hopefully we create some of the same things that allowed us to win those games last year this year.”
This is the first-ever meeting between FSU and the Pilots. Portland is one of the nation’s top programs and is a constant player on the national sage. The pilots feature junior Lauren Olandos who was named one of 13 candidates for soccer’s highest honor, the Hermann Award. Junior midfielder Erin Misaki was named a SoccerBuzz preseason All-American and the addition of Canadian national team player Christine Sinclair make the Pilots one of the most dangerous teams FSU has ever faced.
“Collectively they are very talented but individually they can do so many things and that is kind of scary,” said Baker. “Portland has a number of personality players which we don’t have yet. We are just a good solid team. We don’t have the name players that a Portland, Santa Clara or Wake Forest has. They have some unbelievably talented players, and although that is scary, the exciting thing is that our players will get to face some of the best players in the country and our team will be better for that, win lose or draw. ”
Florida State continues play in the 2001 Wake Forest/Nike Invitational when they face sixth-ranked Santa Clara Sunday afternoon. Updates from Friday night’s contest between the Seminoles and Pilots will be available at www.seminoles.com.