Sept. 20, 2006
Chapel Hill, NC — The first nine times Florida State played North Carolina the Seminoles were outscored 62-2. After a 3-1 loss played in the driving rain the first time the teams played in 1995, FSU wasn’t even within four goals in any of the next eight meetings. In four of those games the Seminoles lost 9-0 but when the two teams meet Thursday night in a nationally televised game on the Fox Soccer Channel FSU (6-0, 0-0) will be the higher ranked team. They will travel to Chapel Hill after eliminating the Tar Heels (8-1, 0-0) in the 2005 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. It will be unfamiliar territory for the Florida State soccer program.
“Considering what happened in the NCAA Tournament last year I am sure this is a game they are looking forward to,” said senior Kelly Rowland. “If you asked me freshman year, I would have never thought that UNC may have a game versus Florida State circled on their calendar. That is a statement on how far this program has come. We have experienced a little bit this year what Carolina goes through every season, having a target on your back. It is where we have always wanted to be and we aren’t going to complain about it.”
“Carolina is such a prestigious program,” said Hermann Trophy candidate India Trotter. “They have been the dominant power in our game and they have amazing support from their fans. Most of the time you are the underdog when you face them no matter what the rankings say. You have to go in with the attitude that you have nothing to lose. It is important to enjoy the game and have fun. This is what we all dream about. It is always a thrill to play UNC.”
While the Seminoles come in to the ACC opener for both teams ranked as high as No. 1 the players still know the challenge they face Thursday. Not only have the Tar Heels won eight games in a row after a season-opening loss, they are ranked fourth in the nation. Above all else, they are still the Tar Heels.
“The University of North Carolina has defined success over the course of the last 20 or 25 years,” said Head Coach Mark Krikorian. “Any chance to go to Chapel Hill and compete against their group is a great opportunity for us. We will compete Thursday and measure ourselves against one of the best there is in our sport.”
“We will always respect Carolina,” said All-American Selin Kuralay. “They may have lost five starters but that doesn’t make a difference. They are still one of the best teams in the country. Anson Dorrance is an awesome coach. We have a great deal of respect for that program.”
That level of respect has been earned over two-plus decades of dominance but the Seminoles don’t want their respect for UNC to turn into intimidation. That is especially challenging for the six Seminole newcomers that could play the biggest road game of their young careers.
“It is a little intimidating but this is one of the reasons I came to Florida State, to play great teams,” said freshman Becky Edwards on her first trip to Chapel Hill. “I am excited to get on the field and see how the game unfolds. The way we have played so far gives me a lot of confidence in our team and that outweighs the intimidation factor of playing a great program like UNC. We just want to play well against the Tar Heels.”
The Seminoles are off to a 6-0 start for the second straight year and are just one win away from tying the record they set in 2005 for the best start to a season. Last year the streak reached six before Carolina came into Tallahassee and ended that run with a 4-1 win. FSU’s first year players may have never been in an atmosphere like they will experience Thursday night but the season opening win over defending National Champion Portland is an experience they will lean on to prepare for the game versus the Heels.
“Playing a team like Portland is good experience for the young players in the sense of seeing another team that is one of the best in the country,” said Edwards. “We have had a taste of great competition. Even though that game was at home, I think it will help. They have a great crowd and that is exciting.”
There are a lot of keys if an opponent wants to have success versus North Carolina especially when you play in Chapel Hill. Once you get past the fact you are playing the Tar Heels, you have to deal with the tactical part of the game and that is just as challenging.
“As hard as it is if you want to have success versus North Carolina you have to approach it like any other game,” said Rowland. “You can’t get caught up in the name on the front of the jersey. We have to go out their and try to play our game. We have to worry about ourselves more than their players, tradition and history of National Championships.”
“We need to try and play our game tactically, which is a big challenge,” said Kuralay. “We don’t want it to turn into a physical battle. We need to try and keep possession and move the ball around quickly like we always do. That is where everything will start for us if we want to have a chance to be successful.”
This will be the sixth game in four seasons for Trotter, Rowland and the FSU seniors versus the Tar Heels. No team has faced UNC as many times as Florida State since 1995 as this will be the 20th meeting between the squads. While Florida State eliminated UNC last year from the NCAA Tournament, outside of one victory in 2000, the Seminoles has had little success garnering results versus their ACC rival. FSU is 1-17-1 all-time against the Heels and 0-8-1 since that lone victory in 2000.
“We would love to get a win,” said Trotter. “More importantly we want to play well against a great team. Our hard work and preparation will go a long way to determining the outcome. It should be a great college game.”
The game will be an early season statement game for both sides as well. On top of it being the first conference test for the two teams picked to finish first and second in the ACC preseason coaches’ poll, it will be an opportunity for both teams to prove a point. A win for Carolina would go a long way to erasing the disappointment of last season’s elimination and would be a statement that they are not ready to give up their perennial spot as the ACC’s top team. For Florida State, it is another chance to prove the team is a national power and back-up its lofty ranking.
“We are working hard to stay on the scene among the top teams in the country,” said Krikorian. “Up to this point we have done pretty well this year and we did pretty well last year. We just don’t want to be a one year wonder that goes to the College Cup one year and not again. So far our group has done pretty well.”
“There is a lot of hype surrounding this game but it is still very early in the season,” said Rowland. “It is going to be a great test for us and we look forward to it.”
The top five showdown between FSU and UNC is set to kick at 8:00 p.m. and will be broadcast live to a national television audience on the Fox Soccer Channel. For fans who can’t watch the game live Game Tracker will be available for the game at Seminoles.com along with North Carolina’s live radio broadcast.