Sept. 17, 2004
Tallahassee, FL – The fifth-ranked FSU soccer team (5-1-0, 0-0-0) will open ACC play tonight in a huge home battle versus seventh-ranked Clemson (5-2-0, 0-0-0). The Tribe has the longest active winning streak in ACC openers with three consecutive wins and the 2004 FSU senior class is 3-0 all-time against Clemson in conference games. The match is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
“We have started with Clemson two of the last three years and it has almost become a traditional ACC opener for us,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “It has become a great game. They have been exceptionally close and decided late. You know it is going to be two very good teams and like this year two nationally ranked teams. There is a lot at stake from a conference, regional and national standpoint. I think that has been the case with every Friday night opponent since the season started.”
The Seminoles have won two straight games since a loss to No. 4 Florida last week. The Tribe is coming off its best offensive performance of the season scoring five goals in a win over Jacksonville. Five different players scored goals in that game and the five goals were equal to the total amount of goals FSU had scored in the four previous matches.
“The Jacksonville game gave us a lot of confidence and not just the forwards but all around the field,” said All-American Leah Gallegos. “We had assists and goals from so many players. We will need to keep that up if we want to be successful against a great Tiger team. We need to keep that confidence going because every one on this team has the potential to make an impact on the field.”
While the Tribe is 3-0 in the regular season against Clemson, they are 3-2 in the last five meetings with both losses coming in South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Clemson holds a special place in FSU soccer history as the Tigers were the first ACC win in FSU program history (1996) and the first ACC road win for Baker. Clemson isn’t the only ACC team FSU has had regular season success against lately. The Tribe has current undefeated streaks versus three other ACC teams. The Seminoles are 3-0-2 in their last five conference games versus NC State, 3-0 versus Maryland and 2-0-1 in their last three ACC matches with Duke. Against this group, the 2004 senior class is a combined 11-0-1.
“If we were able to finish a series off 4-0 versus an ACC opponent as a senior class, that would mean a lot to us considering where this program came from,” said senior captain Jez Ratliff. “That is such a hard feat to accomplish against any ACC team but especially Clemson. They are so talented. While we have won three straight in the regular season, every game is very close. All the games could have gone either way. Hopefully that will be the case Friday.
“In this conference it is extremely important to get off to a good start. You never know where or when your next win will come so trying to get that first one is big. Starting 1-0 is huge because you could easily lose any game in this league, the teams are just that good.”
One of the keys will be getting out to a quick start. FSU scored just under six minutes into the Jacksonville game and went on to record three other first half scores. The reason, according to Gallegos was the squad’s energy level.
“I hope we come out with a lot of energy Friday night because Clemson is a really talented team,” said Gallegos. “The game could easily go either way. Individually I just want to come out with more energy than I have in the past and influence the game in a positive manner. We need to play together as a team and not rely on anything that has happened in the past individually or collectively.”
The Tigers are coming in on a two-game losing streak after winning their first five matches. Clemson fell 3-1 to No. 6 Kansas but was then upset by in-state rival South Carolina 2-0 Wednesday night. It was Clemson’s first loss to the Gamecocks since 1996. If FSU were to down the Tigers it would be the second year in a row FSU had a hand in a three-game losing streak for CU. In 2003 FSU defeated Clemson 1-0 in South Carolina. That loss was sandwiched by losses to North Carolina and Maryland. It would be just the fourth time in program history that the Tigers had a three game losing streak.
“Knowing coach (Todd) Bramble and a number of Clemson’s players, I am sure they want to get back out on the field and play as soon as they can. Any coach would,” said Baker. “At the same time, regardless of how they are coming in and we are coming in, it is the first ACC game of the season for both teams. You can throw all the other stuff out. As we have seen with other results this year, anything can happen on any given day regardless of how one team or the other is doing. We just need to continue to improve. If we do that, we will put ourselves in position to play well and hopefully be successful.”
This match with Clemson was supposed to be FSU’s second ACC game of the year but the match with new conference foe Miami was cancelled due to Hurricane Frances. This will be the first time FSU has stepped into a conference battle as the No. 2 team in the ACC preseason coaches’ poll and the Tribe is coming off an ACC Tournament final appearance last year.
“I think there are expectations this year more than pressure,” said Baker. “There are a lot of seniors leading teams in the ACC this year and the teams with the best senior leadership usually do well. The thing about our current seniors is that they have raised the bar every year whether it be the regular season, the ACC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament. We want to make our conference games at the end of the season mean something. To do that we have to take care of the games at the front end so it is important to get a result your first game out.”
The game will start at 7:00 p.m. and there is no admission charge for regular season games at the Seminole Soccer Complex. If you are unable to attend, a live audio broadcast and live stats will be available exclusively through the official Florida State University athletic website, seminoles.com.