When the seventh-ranked Demon Deacons and 17th-ranked Seminoles meet Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in Tallahassee, the two teams will be battling for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Wake is 10-2-1 on the season and 1-0-1 in the conference while FSU eneters the match with a 7-2-3 record and an identical 1-0-1 conference mark. Florida State is unbeaten in its last five matches (4-0-1) but the Deacs will be the first Top 10 team FSU has faced this year. Despite Wake’s high ranking and gaudy record, the Tribe have plenty of reasons to enter the match with a lot of confidence.
After losing the first five matches in the series, FSU has gone 1-1-1 against Wake in the team’s last three meetings and the Garnet and Gold beat Wake 2-0 the last time the teams met in Tallahassee. Florida State is 7-1-0 in night games at home versus ranked teams since head coach Patrick Baker took over the program and the Seminoles are 6-1-0 in their last seven home games versus ACC foes.
“I think we are pretty confident coming into Saturday night but Wake is a very talented team,” said Baker. “I love the way (Wake Forest head coach) Tony’s (da Luz) teams play. They are very possession oriented and you get the feeling they are trying to play the game the way it is meant to be played.
“We have tended to match up pretty well with them in the past. Last year we were up 2-1 at their place with 30 minutes to play and unfortunately they scored three goals on us in that span. Three of their four goals were off set pieces so we felt that if we would have defended better we would have been better off but they deserved the result. We have to do a better job in that area Saturday night.”
Saturday night’s game is huge for both teams considering the start some of the conference’s traditional powers are off to. A win would vault one of the two teams into a first place tie with NC State and give the winner a two and a half game lead on Virginia, a two game lead on Duke and a game and a half lead on North Carolina. A victory would also leave the winner as one of just two unbeatens remaining in the conference.
“You’re never going to get these types of opportunities back so you really have to take the chance when it is there,” said Baker. “The winner goes to 2-0-1 in the conference and will be in first place heading into next week and that would be huge. A win gives you separation from being .500 and if you can finish above that mark you should finish in the top half of the ACC.”
After a 9-0-1 start, Wake has lost two of their last three matches but both losses came against ranked teams. Wake fell to No. 5 Cal 1-0 on the road and dropped their last game to No. 13 Tennessee 2-0 in Winston-Salem, NC. Junior Katherine Winstead (Raleigh, NC) is leading the team offensively with eight goals and five assists for 21 points. Fellow junior Alena Thom (Jefferson City, MO) is right behind Winstead with 15 points (five goals and five assists). Senior keeper Erin Regan (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) has been stellar in net this season having allowed just 10 goals in over 1000 minutes (0.89 GAA).
“I think we have turned the corner defensively and Wake has defended as a unit very well all season. From that standpoint, I think the game will be pretty equal,” said Baker. “The game will come down to midfield play. The team that posses and penetrates more often will have the greater chance of beating the other’s defense. It will just be a matter of sticking the chances. This will be a very evenly matched game and it has been over the last few years. I don’t expect Saturday night to be any different.”
The Seminoles will continue ACC play this Tuesday, October 15 at 7:00 p.m. when they welcome consensus No. 1 North Carolina (10-1-2, 0-1-0) to Tallahassee, FL for the first time since losing to the Seminoles 3-2 in 2000. The tar Heels are coming off their first loss of the season and first ever loss to NC State Thursday night. For Live Stats for both matches, please visit the official athletic website for Florida State University at www.seminoles.com.