Sept. 20, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Seminole soccer head coach Patrick Baker has been preaching all week to his FSU squad that their second season begins Friday. Just seven games into the 2002 campaign, Florida State (3-2-2) is gearing up to open ACC play and their “second season” as No. 17 Clemson (3-2-0) comes to Tallahassee to renew a great ACC rivalry at 7:00 p.m.
“It doesn’t get any better or any bigger than what we have in front of us Friday night,” said Baker. “I don’t think we felt like we would be in the position we are in and we have a very good opponent sitting in front of us. We know what they are about. We know their personnel. It will come down to the little things just as it did last season in the regular season and in the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully those little things will add up in our favor.
“It’s going to be an exciting game. I think Todd (Bramble) hit it on the head when he said it’s going to be a flip of the coin. The game could go either way but that’s every game in the conference in most people’s minds.”
The rivalry between the Tigers and Seminoles has become rather heated over the last few years. Its beginnings are rooted in just FSU’s second-ever season. In 1996, FSU downed No. 10 Clemson 1-0 for the Tribes first-ever ACC win and its first-ever win over a Top 10 team, as it was easily the biggest win in the young program’s history. The Tigers won the next three by a combined score of 8-1 before FSU heated up the rivalry again in 2000.
The two teams met twice in 2000 with Clemson getting a last minute victory in Tallahassee (3-2) during the regular season. The Tigers then ended FSU’s run in the NCAA Tournament as they defeated the Garnet and Gold 2-0 in the Sweet 16 in South Carolina. The Tribe struck the next blow in 2001 as they opened their ACC season on the road and stunned the Tigers 3-2. The loss represented just the 12th loss in 90 games for Clemson at Riggs Field. Things got even more heated when the Seminoles felt they were snubbed by the NCAA as they were not chosen as a first round host. To make matters worse they were sent back to Clemson for the second year in a row. Once again the Tigers ended FSU’s season this time by just one goal (1-0).
“It doesn’t get any better or any bigger than what we have in front of us Friday night. It’s going to be an exciting game. I think Todd (Bramble) hit it on the head when he said it’s going to be a flip of the coin.”
Head Coach Patrick Baker
“It hasn’t been a big game in year’s past when they kind of had their way with us,” said Baker. “It has become a wonderful rivalry in the last two years. I don’t expect anything less tonight. Their players are aware of what has happened the last four times we’ve played. Our players sure know too because they have ended our season by beating us in the NCAA Tournament the last two years.
“This is why you come to FSU or play women’s soccer in the ACC,” said Baker. “It’s to play against Clemson, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Duke, Maryland and NC State. You name it. That’s why you’re coming.”
Despite a loss to Clemson in the 2001 NCAA Tournament, Florida State has to feel comfortable entering Friday’s game considering how well they played the Tigers in the Round of 32. The Seminoles out shot Clemson 11 to eight and took two more corners. In the second half alone, FSU took nine shots compared to just one for the Tigers but the one shot Clemson took was the game-winner in the 1-0 game.
“I think for the first time, I felt our performance in the 2001 tournament was some of the best soccer we have ever played on the road in a very difficult environment,” said Baker. “We played well enough to win. We didn’t win but I felt we played well enough to get a result.”
In many ways, Friday night’s match-up will be a story of two offenses. The Seminoles, who started the 2002 season slowly, have seemed to find their offensive stride as of late. After scoring four goals in the first three games, FSU has scored six goals in their past three matches. All-ACC first team selection Cindy Schofield scored her first goal of the season during that three-game span and 2001 All-ACC rookie team member Camie Bybee has found the back of the net in two straight games. Midfielder Summer Corum is off to the best offensive start in three years and freshmen Leah Gallegos and Erica Lewis both recorded the first goals of their collegiate career on the road in Coral Gables, Fla.
“We felt like we started to turn the corner a little bit offensively down in South Florida,” said Baker. “We gained a little confidence in our performance versus Charlotte but we still have a lot of area in which to improve. It is collectively getting much better from our backs to our midfield to our front-runners.
“We have to run at their back four just as much as they are going to run at our back four. We have to solve their defense a little better than we did in the NCAA Tournament. I thought we buzzed until the top of the 18 and then our final pass or run wasn’t as clean as it could have been. I look at our team and know we’ve come a long way since that point. I am sure Clemson feels the same way.”
The Seminoles biggest challenge Friday will be to defend one of the most potent offenses in the ACC. Clemson forward Heather Beem is second in the ACC in goals per game and third in the conference in points per game. Beem and the Tigers’ other two forwards will challenge an FSU defense, which will be without 2001 first team freshman All-American Katie Beal. The sophomore center back is serving a one game suspension after receiving a red card versus Charlotte last weekend.
“We defended their three-front very well in 2001 and that says a lot when you think about their personality players up front,” said Baker. “They are all back and the challenge remains the same. We have to contain them the best we can. They are going to get chances. They are going to get behind you at times but hopefully not with much frequency.
“I think that will be the key (defending their forwards). If we can contain their front three, possess and get forward ourselves, that is what we have to do.”
The Seminoles ACC opener is set for a 7:00 p.m. start at the Seminole Soccer Complex. There is no admission charge for regular season games at the complex. After facing Clemson Friday, Florida State will welcome USF to Tallahassee Sunday, September 22 at 1:00 p.m. Please logon to the official athletic site for Florida State at www.seminoles.com for live stats, game stories, weekly releases and all the information you need on the 2002 FSU soccer team.