Oct. 18, 2002
Raleigh, NC –
After losing back-to-back games for the first time since September 9, 2001, the 21st-ranked FSU soccer team (7-4-3, 1-2-1) is in Raleigh, NC for a Saturday afternoon showdown with a surprising NC State squad (8-4-1, 2-1-1) that is currently ranked 19th in the nation. The Wolfpack, picked to finish last in the conference by the ACC coaches to start the season, are currently sitting in second place in the ACC and is the only team to hand defending National Champion North Carolina a loss this season.
The Seminoles have dropped their last two matches, both to ACC foes and both at home. The Tribe is currently tied for sixth place in the ACC standings but could make a huge jump with a win Saturday. A victory would give FSU a tie-break advantage over two of the three teams currently sitting with two loses in ACC play and move the team back into the top half of the standings.
“This is a big conference game,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “I don’t want to say it is a must-win game but if we are fortunate enough to win it will be an important victory. A win will move us to 2-2-1 with two conference games left to play. Our heads are a little bit underwater as far as our conference record goes and that’s what we are fighting for. We want to get back to .500. We are at the point of the season where we need a result.”
Florida State is coming off two very difficult defeats. Just over a week ago, the Garnet and Gold lost a double overtime game to then 7th-ranked Wake Forest as the Deacons scored the game-winner with under three minutes to play. A few days later, FSU played one of its best games in program history versus No. 2 UNC but still ended up losing 5-1 in a game in which they were unable to capitalize on numerous opportunities.
“I don’t think the score in the UNC game reflected how well we played,” said co-captain Amber Tollefson. “We played the best we’ve ever played against UNC and obviously we weren’t rewarded for the effort. We gained a lot of confidence from that game despite the result and we took that confidence with us throughout training this week. This whole week of practice we had been stepping the level up because of the confidence we gained against the Tar Heels.”
“Every single player on this team wanted to step out and train the day after that loss to UNC,” said Baker. “I think there are two reasons for that. First, I think they were a little embarrassed about going down 5-0 at home against Carolina. Second, we were encouraged with our play because it wasn’t played like a 5-1 game. The combination of those two things really fired our team up.”
Florida State is 1-0-2 versus the Wolfpack since Baker took over the program in 1999 with all three of those games going into overtime. Last season, the Seminoles defeated NC State in Tallahassee 2-1 in overtime on the strength of two Jez Ratliff goals. The Wolfpack leads the all-time series 2-3-2 but with a win, FSU could move to .500 all-time against NCSU and it would mark the first time since 1996 that FSU had a .500 record against any ACC foe.
“It would be great if I could help my team like I was fortunate enough to do last season,” said Ratliff. “As a team we are looking to get back to .500 in the conference. If we can get the win, it would be big for us. It is a game we feel like we need to have but that is easier said than done. Whenever we play them it is a dogfight.”
“We have to be so focused for NC State,” said Tollefson. “These are always close games. It is one of those games where we are just going to have to find a way to get it done.”
NC State is in the midst of a great stretch where they have gone 5-2-1 including wins over No. 2 North Carolina, a San Francisco team that came into the match at 7-1-1, another ACC win over Maryland and a tie with then No. 7 Wake Forest. The Wolfpack are relying on a senior class that consists of 11 players and the goalkeeping of reigning ACC Player of the Week Gretchen Lear who held the powerful UNC offense to just one goal on 45 shots.
“I’m not surprised at how good NC State is this season,” said Baker. “A lot of that has to do with what happened last year. If I’m not mistaken, they had more one goal losses and more overtime games than any team in the conference. They were so close on so many occasions. From a competitive standpoint they were right there last year. This year the whole complexion has changed. The fact that they have such a huge senior class is a big plus for them. When you are talking about a double-digit number of seniors, I guarantee you they want to go out on the best note possible. They have done a great job so far this year.”
Baker heads into Saturday’s match searching for his first ACC road victory in the state of North Carolina. While the Seminoles did defeat Maryland 7-2 last year in the ACC Tournament hosted by Wake Forest, they have never traveled to North Carolina and won a regular season conference game. A win would also give FSU three wins against an ACC foe for just the third time in program history. This is the first time in the eight-year history of the series the two teams have faced one another when both were nationally ranked.
The Seminoles return home Tuesday, October 22 when they host Jacksonville University in a game scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. start. The Dolphins are 12-1-2 on the year and undefeated in A-Sun play (7-0-2). The game against JU will be the second-to-last regular season home game for the Seminoles. The Tribe is currently less than 1800 fans away from reaching the 10,000 fan mark for the first time in school history and will look to break that mark on Senior Night against Virginia Saturday, November 11. For more information on the 21st-ranked FSU soccer team, please visit the official website for the Florida State University athletic department at www.seminoles.com.