Nov. 23, 2006
Tallahassee, FL – Florida State soccer has played some big games at the Seminole Soccer Complex. In 2000 FSU beat both Florida and North Carolina at home. Later that season the Seminoles hosted the first NCAA Tournament game in school history. In 2002 the Seminoles hosted two opening round games in the tournament and last season for the first time a third round game was played in Tallahassee. None of those stack up with what is going to take place Friday night when the Seminole Soccer Complex serves as the host site for an NCAA Quarterfinal match. Second-seeded Florida State (17-3-4) and ACC rival Clemson (11-7-5) will face-off at 7:00 p.m. for the right to go to the College Cup.
“This is a big deal,” said senior Toby Ranck. “If you step back from it, you realize how lucky we are. We have worked so hard all season and put ourselves in a good place so I think it is deserved.”
“This is a perfect way to end the home field portion of our careers with an NCAA Quarterfinal match,” said India Trotter. “We get to play in front of people who have supported us at home for four straight seasons. It is a great send off for our last game at home but hopefully it is not our last game.”
The game is a rematch of the 0-0 tie that ended the regular season for both clubs. That game was also played in Tallahassee. For Clemson it was the first of three 0-0 draws they have been involved in over a six-game stretch that covers the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Florida State, on the other hand, has scored 13 goals in the six games since the teams last met.
“A lot of us were disappointed with the outcome of the first meeting,” said Kelly Rowland. “We had a lot of good chances that we just didn’t put away. In the back of our heads we want to try and not go into overtime or PK’s as they have won three straight shootouts. The stakes are high so is the motivation.”
“I thought we played very well,” said FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian of the first meeting with Clemson. “It’s one of the games we look back at and thought that the passing play and the attacking play was very good and the defending was outstanding. But our finishing was less than stellar. I think that’s an area where we have improved. We’ve done a better job at taking our chances and finishing them. We’re going to have to finish our chances at NCAA tournament time. Everyone’s a little bit tighter and the results are a little bit closer for the most part. We have great respect for Clemson and we look forward to the competition this weekend.”
Finishing was a problem for FSU on the day as was Tiger keeper Ashley Phillips. The Seminoles outshot Clemson 32-9 and put 11 of those shots on goal but Phillips had a brilliant day in net saving 10 of those shots with one other saved off the line by her teammates.
“We had a lot of shots on goal in that game but since then I think we have been more precise in our finishing,” said forward Selin Kuralay. “We have confidence scoring goals right now. We will try to do the same thing we did against them last time except this time hopefully we will be able to score because I think our finishing is sharper at this point of the season.”
Florida State’s finishing has been much sharper in the NCAA Tournament where the team has scored 10 goals in three matches. Part of the success has been due to getting off to fast starts. Eight of the team’s 10 goals have come in the first half and six have come in the first 30:00 of a game.
“It will be important for us to get a goal early,” said Kuralay. “Then Clemson will have to attack more and that will provide more space. An early goal will allow us to spread the play more and penetrate a little bit more.”
Clemson will come into Tallahassee as the tournament’s Cinderella team. They are one of just two unseeded teams still remaining in the NCAA’s and the other is defending National Champion Portland. The Tigers have not won a game yet in this year’s postseason recording three straight ties and advancing to the next round by winning three straight shootouts.
“Clemson’s hard,” said Krikorian. “They’ve done what they’ve had to do to fight their way late during the regular season into the NCAA tournament. They beat Duke and Wake, they came here and drew with us and then they get into the ACC tournament and beat Boston College. And now they’ve gone through three rounds of NCAA playoffs to find a way here. So I give them all the credit in the world. They’ve battled uphill for six or eight weeks with their backs against the wall and have found ways to get results. We’re pretty sure they’ll come in here ready to go and we’re hoping we’ll have our A-game that day.”
The key to Clemson’s NCAA Tournament success has been defense and Phillips. The Tigers have scored just one goal in the NCAA’s and the team has scored just four times in its last seven matches but Clemson has shutout back-to-back opponents to land in the NCAA Quarterfinals for the first time since 2000.
“Clemson has done a great job keeping the ball out of their net,” said Ranck. “One thing we have done very well in this tournament is create a lot of chances and finish so I think this should be a classic match-up. Hopefully we can remain consistent in our attack and find a way to score a goal against a very good team.”
“Obviously Clemson has been playing well for quite some time,” said Rowland. “They are limiting opponent’s chances and their scoring. At the end of the day I still think we have to focus on ourselves. If we do the things we can do that makes our team so special, we will be OK and have a chance to get a result.”
Even though this is Clemson’s fifth trip to an NCAA Quarterfinal, there is no player on the Tiger squad that has ever played in a game of this magnitude. For the Seminoles seven players on the roster have started an NCAA Quarterfinal match and two others have started two.
“Being in the quarterfinals for the third time you know what to expect a little bit more,” said Ranck. “There is more excitement for me than nervousness. Obviously this one means more now because I am a senior and it could be my final game as a Seminole. The experience is a positive though.”
“I think experience is somewhat of a factor at this point of the season,” said Trotter. “We have been here before, we know what is at stake and we know what it takes to advance. That is an advantage but I also know in 2003 we went to Florida in our first quarterfinal. Florida was experienced in the NCAA Tournament and we knocked them out. Experience is no guarantee.”
On top of the experience factor, FSU’s success this season versus familiar opponents will boost the team’s confidence. After a 3-1 loss to Duke in the regular season FSU beat the Blue Devils 2-0 in the ACC Tournament. The Seminoles improved on their 3-0 win over JU from the regular season to the tune of a 6-0 win in the NCAA Tournament’s opening game. The Seminoles have already eliminated two teams in Cal and Illinois that they faced in last year’s NCAA’s so the squad has had success in rematches this season.
“It is great to play a team you are familiar with,” said Trotter. “Florida State and Clemson know one another very well. We are in a great situation as far as preparation but so are they. We will be ready to play and give them a good fight.”
“It helps anytime you see a team for a second time because you are more prepared,” said Rowland. “It can hurt us too. They know our personnel. They know how we like to play. Especially being an NCAA game, there will be no surprises. There is so such much at stake with the College Cup on the line. Both teams will be ready to play.”
One other area where FSU will have an advantage is playing at home. Florida State is 17-0-2 in its last 19 games at the Seminole Soccer Complex. Twice already this postseason FSU fans have set and then broke an NCAA Tournament attendance record. This will be the first time the team has played on a Friday night since opening the NCAA’s in front of more than 1,000 fans with a 6-0 win over Jacksonville.
“It means a lot to host this far into the tournament,” said Ranck. “We have such great support here and to get to play an NCAA Quarterfinal game on the field where we have worked so hard for four years means so much.”
Friday’s NCAA Quarterfinal match will be broadcast live free on Internet radio at Seminoles.com. GameTracker will also be available. Tickets for the game are available on line at Seminoles.com or by calling the Seminole Athletic Ticket Office at (850) 644-1830 or 1-888-FSU-NoLE. The first 200 FSU students with a valid ID will be admitted free to the game.