Nov. 15, 2002
Tallahassee, FL –
For the third straight season, the 21st-ranked FSU soccer team (12-6-3) won its opening game at the NCAA Tournament defeating Ole Miss (13-5-2) 2-0 Friday night at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The victory raised the Seminoles record to 12-0-2 at home on Friday night’s since head coach Patrick Baker took over the program in 1999. The Seminoles now move into the Round of 32 where they will face Auburn (15-4-2) Sunday at 1:00 p.m. for the right to advance to the program’s second Sweet 16 in three years.
The Seminoles used a stellar performance from 2002 All-ACC first teamer Cindy Schofield, keeper Kerry York and the entire defense Friday night. The Florida State defense, which recorded three shutouts all season before Friday, now have two shutouts in their last three NCAA Tournament games.
“We have been preaching defending for a good while now and I am very pleased for Kerry (York), Meredith (Jones), Katie (Beal), (Kristin) Boyce, (Ashlee) Fontes and T (Teresa Rivera) to step out just like we did in the first round last year and defend well for 90 minutes and keep them off the board,” said Baker.
“They are very organized in the back,” said Mississippi head coach Steve Holeman. “Their back four did a great job of eliminating us and their keeper did a great job.”
The Florida State defense once again rose to the occasion in the NCAA Tournament. After allowing seven goals in their final three games, the FSU back four helped to record the team’s fourth shutout of the season and they have now allowed just one goal in the last 270 minutes of NCAA postseason play shutting out an Ole Miss squad that had only been blanked once in 19 matches prior to Friday night.
“A lot of people stepped up and when you get to this point you have to defend well and that is why I thought Meredith (Jones) and Katie (Beal) were our co-MVP’s tonight”, said Baker. “They did a wonderful job doing the little things. All those things added up. We stayed diligent, we worked hard and tonight it paid off.”
“I think sometimes we felt flustered as a unit,” said Jones. “We’ll make one little mistake and get countered. I felt that it was imperative to put forth a better effort tonight. This will boost our confidence knowing we can get a shutout versus a good team in the NCAA Tournament. Our entire team defended very well from top to bottom. It wasn’t just the back four and our goalie.”
York, a sophomore goalie from Severna Park, MD, was stellar in the net as she has now gone 180 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal in the NCAA postseason. She made five saves Friday night and came up big when she was called upon just as she did versus Auburn and Clemson in 90 minutes of work in the 2001 tournament.
“We have worked really hard on defense all week, focusing on the little things,” said York. “Collectively the players in front of me were so good tonight from top to bottom.
“A lot of us talked before the game about how confident we were coming into tonight’s match. I am so comfortable behind all of our defenders and tonight everything felt like it was clicking perfectly for us as a unit.”
Schofield, a two-time All-ACC first team selection, had the best night of her career in the NCAA Tournament as she recorded a goal and an assist driving Florida State to its 10th multi-game goal in the last 15 matches. Her 42nd-minute penalty kick also gave FSU a goal in its 20th-straight game dating back to the second game of the season. Schofield’s goal and assist moved the striker into the top two best single season marks for goals, points and assists in the history of the program.
Despite their success, the Seminole offense found it tough early on against a stellar Ole Miss defense. The Rebels came into the match allowing an average of just one goal a game and they showed up early holding the Seminole attack at bay for the first six minutes of the match and FSU didn’t seriously challenge the Rebels until 10 minutes in.
“Ole Miss is a very good soccer team and they made it very difficult for us to play the way we are capable of playing,” said Baker. “I give them credit for that because they made it difficult at times for us. They came out with wonderful energy to start the game.
“I thought across the board, their defense gave a wonderful effort tonight. I thought the Ole Miss defense did a great job of neutralizing our wide players from getting around the outside. They came in with eight shutouts so we knew it was going to be difficult.”
In the 10th minute, the Seminoles started to find their rhythm and began to penetrate the Ole Miss backline. All-ACC Rookie Team member Leah Gallegos attacked the Rebels and sent a pass into the box that was deflected right back to her. She took off with the ball at her feet and beat two defenders. As soon as she worked herself into space, she fired to the back post but her shot bounced off the post just narrowly missing putting FSU in front.
Moments later, senior midfielder Jenny Garcia found Jez Ratliff out wide. The sophomore one timed the pass into the box and right on to the head of Schofield who was about 10 yards out. The senior’s header just went inches wide of the Rebel goal.
“I thought after Ole Miss’ initial energy started to wear off, we started to take control of the game a little bit more,” said Baker. “That probably wasn’t until about 20 minutes into the half. Then we put together a string of 15 to 20 minutes where we started to do some nice things. We started to play and knock it around like we are capable of. Maybe that was our opening round jitters or just being disappointed our last two times out at home.”
After FSU’s second serious chance of the night, an Ole Miss counter produced the Rebels best opportunity for a goal on the evening. Anna Sanders slid in behind the FSU defense and received a pass that put her in the box on the right side all alone with York. The 2001 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year charged the senior and made a huge stop on the midfielder’s shot.
“I don’t remember how she got through but I remember she was coming at me on my left side. I made sure I was in position and went she went to strike the ball I just attacked,” said York. “Luckily on that play I did things right.
“An early save like that makes a huge difference mentally for me and the team. I think it gave the team confidence that I was playing well and personally it made me feel good.”
In the 28th minute Gallegos once again came inches away from putting FSU on top. The freshman dribbled down the center of the pitch and to the 18 yard box. She then ripped a shot that beat Mississippi keeper Brittany Gillespie (13-5-2) but caught enough of the underside of the crossbar to force it straight down where the ball bounced and was cleared off the line.
With time winding down in the first half, FSU looked for the go-ahead goal. Beal, who was stellar all night defensively, almost recorded her fourth assist of the season when she picked off a pass in the center of the field and immediately started to drive an FSU counter attack. She sent a high-arching ball from just inside midfield to the backpost and right onto the foot of junior Amber Tollefson who had run behind the Ole Miss defense. Tollefson collected the pass and was just unable to get the shot off before Ole Miss got back into position.
Florida State would get on the board just minutes later. Junior midfielder Summer Corum lulled the Mississippi defense to sleep as she slowly brought the ball into the penalty box before blowing past the defender marking her. In a last ditch attempt to stop the run, Corum’s legs were taken out from under her and FSU was awarded a penalty kick at the 41:26 mark. Schofield drove a low shot into the side netting that Gillespie got a hand on but had no chance of stopping putting FSU up 1-0.
“That penalty kick was all due to Summer (Corum). She was unbelievable,” said Schofield. “She took the girl to the outside, got her stuck in and if she wasn’t taken down, it could have been a goal for her just as easily. In tournament time, games sometimes come down to PK’s so we have worked on that.”
“Summer’s individual ability to unbalance a defender or a defense is pretty special,” said Baker. “With Summer and Jez (Ratliff) in the game at the same time, they are like bookends. They can really run at people and Summer is pretty explosive. We told her she needed to make those types of runs and it paid off in a goal for us.”
“They have tremendous speed on the outside and Jez Ratliff was a handful for us tonight,” said Holeman. “She is very fast and she got in behind us. We felt we did a pretty good job of containing their athleticism but that was definitely an asset for them tonight.”
In the second half, Mississippi look to capitalize on one of the few errors in the back by the Florida State defense as Kristin Chapman picked off an errant pass in FSU’s third of the field. She found SEC Rookie of the Year Kelly Renie open about eight yards in front of the goal as the Carmel, IN native looked to tally her 19th goal of the season. The forward just got under the shot and sent it over the crossbar preserving the FSU lead.
Florida State put the game away in the 72nd minute. Garcia sent Schofield down the center of the pitch as FSU broke out in a three-on-two. The senior had Camie Bybee running on her right and Ratliff on her left. As both Rebel defenders closed on Schofield, the All-American candidate slide a perfect pass to Ratliff inside the box. Gillespie charged but the sophomore dribbled around her and stuck the ball into the empty net setting new career highs with her sixth goal and 17th point of the season.
“Jenny (Garcia) won a ball in the middle and sent the ball into Cindy (Schofield),” said Ratliff. “The defenders converged on her and she sent a great through ball. I was able to beat the keeper to it and find the net.”
“We had a defensive miscue, they got behind us and finished. That is what great teams do,” said Holeman. “Florida State is a great team.”
Beal set FSU up with one last chance as she sent another great ball into the box. Gillespie came out to try to punch out the lofted service but Bybee got to the ball first. With her back to the goal, the sophomore flicked the ball backwards and over the keeper but the attempt just missed the goal.
With Auburn’s 2-o win over UCF earlier in the day, the Seminoles and Tigers will now meet again in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. Auburn won the SEC regular season title this year and is led by stellar keeper Megan Rivera (13-3-2). The Miami native came into the NCAA Tournament with the 22nd-best GAA in the nation and lowered her 0.76 GAA with a shutout Friday.
“Auburn is having a wonderful year. You don’t finish first in the SEC without doing some wonderful things,” said Baker. “They are good up top, they are solid in the back and they have some individual skill players in the central midfield.
“One of the most evident things is Megan Rivera who is the back-up keeper on our U-19 National Team. Last year we snuck one past her on a great misdirection with Camie (Bybee) at the backpost. That’s what it takes to get one past her. You have to do something pretty special to beat her and I just hope we get enough chances Sunday.”
Florida State is 3-1-0 all-time versus the Tigers and this is the second-straight year the Seminoles have met a team twice in-a-row in the NCAA’s with a chance to advance to the Sweet 16. In 2000 and 2001, FSU faced Clemson in South Carolina once with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line and last year with a Sweet 16 berth awaiting the winner.
Sunday’s match is scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. start at the Seminole Soccer Complex and tickets are available on site beginning at 11:00 a.m. They can also be purchased on-line exclusively at www.seminoles.com.