Oct. 16, 2000
By John Levesque
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
The 2000 Florida State soccer team is in the midst of a record-breaking season. The Seminoles have been nationally ranked for the entire season, broken the record for home victories in a season (7), recorded first-ever wins over three nationally ranked opponents (Florida, Texas A&M and Wake Forest) and set the record for the most consecutive wins in a season (5). Through all the record-setting success on the field, Florida State soccer fans have also quietly set a record in the stands. Well, maybe `quietly’ isn’t the best word.
Seminole soccer fans set the all-time record for attendance Saturday, October 7 against Wake Forest when a crowd of 866 people helped to shatter the previous record set in 1996. After eight games, the Seminoles are averaging 720 fans per game and with two games remaining, 5,758 fans have enjoyed an almost magical season at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
“We made it a goal to protect our home field this season,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “Traditionally we haven’t played well at the Soccer Complex but I think our 7-1 mark this season illustrates how hard we’ve worked to try and turn that around. We want it to be very hard for visiting teams to play here and the fans have played a big part in making that happen.”
It is hard to comprehend how important this record is without looking at the past. Florida State averaged half as many fans last season (352) and attracted a total of 3,170 fans in 1999. Florida State had never averaged more than 585 (1995) fans per game and their largest season mark for attendance was 5,106 and that record was set four years ago.
“I can remember my first two years when we played on the intramural fields and we were lucky if a few parents showed up,” recalls senior Ashley Halter. “Getting a big crowd on a Friday night is great but having a packed house on a Sunday afternoon at 1:00 against Clemson was incredible. I’ve never seen that before. We feed off of the crowd and they get us so pumped up. Things as small as a slide tackle make our crowds go crazy this year. When you are tired and it’s late in a game and the crowd is urging you on it makes a big difference.”
There is little doubt that the Seminoles rise to national prominence and their quality of play this season have both significantly contributed to the attendance record. Another major factor can be traced to their season-opening victory against in-state rival, and then 6th-ranked, Florida. The 3-2 victory on a last minute goal will forever be remembered as a major turning point in Florida State soccer history and a record crowd of 1,282 screaming Seminole fans witnessed it all.
“The fans have been great, I guess it got kick started with the Florida win because we won a lot of fans over with the result and the way that the game unfolded,” said Baker. “That Friday night against Florida was the most unbelievable setting we’ve ever had here. Every exciting moment was met by the roar of the crowd and it was in our favor.”
The Seminoles have played in front of four of the top nine largest crowds in the history of the program during the 2000 season. Florida State attracted 1,282 fans against Florida (#1), 953 fans for their match with Texas A&M (#4), 866 fans for the Wake Forest game (#7) and 836 people came out to see FSU battle Clemson for a match that was broadcast locally on the Sunshine Network (#9). The Seminoles went 3-1 in those games and the players know the fans played a big part in each of those victories over nationally ranked opponents.
“The crowds have been great this season,” said defender Ashlee Fontes. “Around campus you can hear people talking about going to watch us play soccer. It’s great. People know now that we have a soccer team and they are coming out to support us and enjoy the game. Having the crowd behind us is great.”
FSU still has two of the biggest home games remaining on their schedule when defending national champion and third-ranked North Carolina and No. 14 Virginia head to the Seminole Soccer Complex for key ACC battles. The Seminoles will continue to count on the home field advantage their fans have provided this season.
“We keep winning at home and we are grateful that people keep coming back,” said Baker. “When you have the crowd support and fan base we’ve had this year, the Seminole Soccer Complex becomes a special place to play.”