Nov. 12, 2004
Lake City, FL –
The 17th-ranked Florida State soccer team is used to being in the spotlight. Last season they played for the ACC Title and then on national television in the College Cup. Although it is just an opening round game, FSU and Boston College will garner a lot of attention Friday as the teams meet in the only opening round NCAA Tournament game featuring two teams ranked in the top 25 of the National Soccer Coaches Association (NSCAA) poll.
“We have said it a lot to our players, we think this is one of the most evenly matched first round games in the entire draw,” said FSU head coach Patrick Baker. “There is no home field advantage. Both teams have had very good regular seasons. We both exited our conference tournaments a little quicker than we would have liked. Both teams are excited to play. I know we are thrilled to be in the NCAA Tournament again. We would like nothing more than to make another great run but you always have to take that first step. For us that step begins with a very good BC team Friday.”
The Eagles are one of the hottest teams entering the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Boston College is 14-6-0 but after a 3-4 start, BC has gone 11-2 down the stretch. The Eagles only two losses have come against the No. 2 team in the nation Notre Dame. Offensively, BC is lead by BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Kia McNeill who has nine goals. Containing McNeill will be a big challenge as will be dealing with the fact that the teams have never met before in any regular season or postseason game.
“One of the biggest challenges in this game is the unknown,” said Baker. “We don’t know them. We haven’t seen them. Those things make preparation difficult. They have some personality players up top and in the midfield along with a solid back four. We are going to have to be very aware of where they are at.
“Kia McNeill was the BIG EAST freshman of the year and with the talent in that conference, that is a huge accomplishment for any young lady. The same things we need to take care of Friday are no different than the things we needed to do versus UNC, UCF and Clemson. We have got to defend well up top, in the midfield and in the back and Joy (McKenzie) has got to make saves. If we do those things, we will put ourselves in a good position. The way we have been training this week combined with the rest and recovery time, we feel we are in the best position we have been in for a long time.”
The Tribe is taking a lot of pride in their comeback for a 2-0 halftime deficit versus Clemson in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. Despite being eliminated in a shootout, there seems to be a renewed energy level and confidence, especially in the offensive play but they are aware of the challenge that lay ahead of them. Boston College has allowed just 17 goals all season for an average of 0.89 goals per game.
“Offensively, we have some confidence right now,” said Julia Schnugg. “This past week we have been getting a lot of chances on goal in training. We are very excited about what we have been doing. The key will be bringing that from practice to the game.
“BC has a lot of talent in the back and it is something we have talked about. Their defense will be a challenge for us. We just hope that what we have done in practice will be effective Friday night. We will try to get behind that talented group and hopefully convert a chance or two.”
The Seminoles will also enter the postseason knowing they are 4-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament openers on top of the fact that they made a run to the final four in 2003.The Seminoles will rely on both of those factors when they enter the game Friday at 5:30 p.m.
“We go into the tournament with a certain mentality, we want to win that first game,” said senior Camie Bybee. “There is a different feeling you get in the NCAA Tournament. Everyone wants it just a little bit more. We got a taste of postseason success right from the beginning and we want to repeat that success every year.”
“Most of the time we are looking at 2004 as a whole different year but the experience from last year will be something we draw upon as far as our mindset goes,” said Schnugg. “We are trying to accomplish the same type of thing we did last year and that will help motivate us but we know this is a new year, a new team and a very difficult opponent.”
This is just the second time FSU has opened the postseason on the road. The last time the Tribe traveled to play on opening day in the NCAA Tournament was 2001. That year the Tribe was shipped to Clemson, SC where they opened the tournament with a win over Auburn. That was also the first NCAA Tournament trip for the current senior class.
“Freshman year was a little different because we had to go to Clemson,” said Bybee. “That year we were upset we weren’t hosting. This year we just had the attitude that we will take what we get. If we have to go on the road, so be it. When you play at a neutral site you just have to take what you get and you have to be prepared. We will be ready to play and I am sure BC will be as well.”
Florida State enters the tournament with a lifetime record of 9-4. In four trips, the Seminoles have advanced to the Sweet 16 on three occasions and been to a College Cup. The Tribe’s NCAA Tournament winning percentage of .692 ranks sixth all-time in NCAA history and the team’s 2.3 wins per tournament appearance rates as the fourth-best of all-time.
“The NCAA Tournament is a totally different experience than the regular season, at least for this team it is,” said Teresa Rivera. “It means so much to us to succeed here because if we don’t, that’s it for our season. We need to be playing more on edge in the postseason. We need to fight harder. I think this team is capable of that.”
Oddly enough, this is the second straight year FSU has opened an NCAA Tournament versus a first-time opponent. The Tribe’s first three openers were all against familiar foes. Last season the Seminoles opened with a 5-0 win over Dartmouth in the first meeting ever between those two schools. Overall, the Tribe has only played a first-time opponent twice in the tournament and they have a 1-1 record in those matches with the loss coming versus fellow BIG EAST squad UConn.
“I am actually excited to play a team we have never played,” said Bybee. “There is no familiarity between the programs. It is a straight up match on a neutral field. We will both come out strong and I think it will be a great game. It is exciting.”
Friday’s match will be played in Gainesville, FL and a live Internet radio broadcast will be available. The NCAA will also provide live stats updates. Links to both the radio and stats broadcasts will be available on seminoles.com, the official athletic website for Florida State University.