Oct. 28, 2004
“Senior night is very important especially being a junior because you can see the end in sight and understand more than the two lower classes how important it is to end on a good note,” said Teresa Rivera. “I remember how meaningful it was when Amber scored a goal in her last game ever at the Seminole Soccer Complex last year. We want to make sure this group of seniors has a memory like that to end on.”
Part of the challenge of senior night is balancing the emotions of saying goodbye to seniors with the focus required to get a win against a very good UCF side. No matter how many senior nights a coaching staff goes through, FSU head coach Patrick Baker knows that is not only a challenge for his players but for the staff as well.
“We will be saying goodbye to the best class that has ever come through here as far as wins and losses are concerned,” said Baker. “What this class has been able to achieve here is remarkable because they continue to be able to raise the bar higher and higher. You hope these nights don’t have to come but they do and that will be a test for all of us. We all have to keep our emotions in check, as hard as that will be, and play good soccer right from the start.”
“I don’t think the emotions have hit me yet,” said senior Marion Cagle. “The realization that this is coming to an end probably won’t hit me until I am called out tonight and see all my best friends in the middle of the field. All the memories will come back at that point. I expect it to be an emotional night but exciting as well. It will be a difficult night. Trying to balance your emotions and stay focused on a very good UCF team is tough. After that first 15 minutes I think the emotions will wear off and we will be challenged by a tough UCF squad.”
The Tribe may not have 15 minutes to straighten out their emotions against UCF. The Golden Knights are one of just nine teams out of 306 playing women’s college soccer that entered the week with 14 or more victories. UCF is averaging almost three goals per game and have allowed just eight. That is an average of just 0.44 goals surrendered per match.
“UCF is playing very well,” said Baker. “They have a great record, which tells me they have an understanding of what it takes to win. They have scored a lot of goals and given up very few. They are defending well and creating quality chances. They have three or four attacking personality players so it will be a big challenge. Both teams need this game.”
The game is so important for both squads as it is a regional game and regional victories play a large role in seeding and a team’s invitation into next month’s NCAA Tournament. The Tribe has made it to four straight NCAA Tournaments and with 12 wins and the best record in school history already secure, a loss to UCF could damage the team’s chances of hosting more than getting into the tournament. A win for UCF would further their case for an at-large bid if they fail to secure an automatic bid at the A-Sun Tournament.
“This game has great state and regional implications but national implications as well,” said Baker. “We feel if we are fortunate enough to get to 13-4-1, 13 wins is a plateau very few teams will reach during the regular season. If we can get 13 wins and possibly finish third in the ACC, we feel we will enter the postseason as strong as any other team. We may not be at full strength but we will have felt like we have done enough to position ourselves for the ACC Tournament and in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee.”
The Seminoles have hosted at least one NCAA Tournament game three of the last four seasons and one of the Tribe’s goals this year was to try and host a Sweet 16 game for the first time in program history. With so much of the NCAA Tournament picture yet to be decided, Baker knows that nothing is guaranteed, not even an opening round hosting role.
“You aren’t saying goodbye to these six players right then and there tonight but it is possible this is the last time we will play at home this year,” said Baker. “To play a game like this under the lights at the Seminole Soccer Complex and in front of friends, family and great fans is special. If they never get that opportunity again, you hope they walk off on a winning note. Last year it was extremely difficult saying goodbye to just two seniors. With six this year it will be that much tougher to put into words how much they have meant to me and this program.”
Tonight’s match takes on the added importance of giving FSU a chance to bounce back from last week’s tough loss to No. 1 North Carolina. A win tonight would give the Seminoles their best regular season record in school history, the most home wins in a single season and the highest regular season winning percentage ever as well. While the records are nice, the players aren’t worried so much about setting records as they are in heading into the ACC Tournament next Wednesday on a positive note.
“It is important to finish the regular season on a positive note,” said Cagle. “On top of the records we have a chance to set, we want to finish this part of the season positively so we can head into the ACC Tournament next week on a good foot.”
“It is really important to end this phase of our season on a good note especially since it could be our last game on this field this year,” said sophomore Rachel McDowell. “We want to make it special for our seniors but it is an important night for everybody. We want to also try to have a good night for our fans who have been so supportive all season.”
Admission is free to tonight’s match and it is set to kick at 7:07 p.m. The game is sponsored by STAR 98 and the first 500 fans will receive a free 2004 soccer team photo card courtesy of the Sunshine Network. There will be Halloween treats and a post-game autograph session as well.
If you can’t make it to the match, the game will be broadcast live on the Sunshine Network throughout Florida. There will also be a live radio broadcast and live stats through Game Tracker both of which will be available exclusively through the official athletic website for Florida State at www.seminoles.com.