September 26, 2002 - by
No. 25 Seminole Soccer Hosts 21st-Ranked Gators Friday Night

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Sept. 26, 2002

Tallahassee, FL – When the 21st-ranked Gators (3-4-1) and 25th-ranked Seminoles (5-2-2) meet Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the Seminole Soccer Complex, the 2002 senior class will have a chance to accomplish something no other class at FSU has ever done. If the Tribe is able to defeat the Gators, the 2002 seniors will be the first class to ever leave the university with a winning record against UF. Florida State’s five seniors own a 2-2-0 record versus Florida since 1999.


“I’m looking forward to it,” said senior Cindy Schofield. “It’s my last match against the Gators. It is going to be huge. There was really no rivalry between the schools when I came here as a freshman. We couldn’t match their talent and they embarrassed us in Gainesville in 1999. It has turned into a huge rivalry now that we have won a couple of times. The series has gone back and forth and has been pretty even. We are to the point where it is a flip of a coin.”


In 1999, FSU opened the season against a Gator team that had just won the National Championship. The Seminoles played in front of a crowd of 4,745 fans and former UF football coach Steve Spurrier took a symbolic PK against the Gator mascot during pregame ceremonies. Florida unveiled its championship banner and then went on to down FSU 5-1.


After the embarrassing loss in 1999, the Gators moved out to a 5-0-0 lead in the all-time series but things have never been the same since. The two teams next met in the season-opener of the 2000 campaign. This time it was the FSU stands that were packed and the Seminoles who left the field with a 3-2 win after staging two comebacks.


That night the FSU symbol mattered to me more than ever because of the rivalry. It was so amazing. I remember throughout the game being so proud of this team and being proud of the school I was playing for. There was such a pride factor. It was magical.
Amber Tollefson, junior co-captain


“It was my very first encounter with college soccer,” said junior co-captain Amber Tollefson. “The crowd, the environment and everything was just perfect. That night the FSU symbol mattered to me more than ever because of the rivalry. It was so amazing. I remember it like it was yesterday. There was so much emotion and it was our first big win. I remember throughout the game being so proud of this team and being proud of the school I was playing for. There was such a pride factor. It was magical. You knew after that game that the 2000 season was going to be special.”


The next meeting between the two sides came quicker than expected as the Seminoles and Gators met just over two months later in the NCAA Tournament. It was the first-ever NCAA Tournament trip for the Seminoles and their first postseason road game. Florida State’s 2-1 win sent the school to the Sweet 16 and equaled the earliest exit from the NCAA Tournament in UF soccer history.


“From a school standpoint, there is a built-in rivalry between Florida and Florida State but from a programmatic standpoint it had been pretty lopsided through 1999,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “Coming off their National Championship in 1999 we were taking consolation that we were able to score against them in that 5-1 loss. To beat them in 2000 in dramatic fashion in the season-opener changed our program and in many senses shocked the college soccer world. It pulled us together and allowed us to accomplish some wonderful things that season.


“In that first game of 2000, they didn’t have (Abby) Wambach and (Danielle) Murphy and they were back when we traveled to Gainesville. We heard that we weren’t going to have any chance with those two players in the line-up on top of the game being in Gainesville this time around. I thought our team did a wonderful job of accepting the challenge and we were fortunate enough to win and advance to the Sweet 16.”


The Gators fought back last season and evened the series at 2-2-0 since 1999. With the memory of an early exit in the 2000 tournament still fresh on its mind, UF scored back-to-back goals in under two minutes and downed FSU in Gainesville 2-0.


“Last year was a great college soccer game and Florida definitely deserved to win,” said Baker. “They played for one another last year and I didn’t think that was always the case in 2000. It was a total team effort that was highlighted by some wonderful personality players.”


Florida State will look for its third win in three years Friday and will enter the match feeling confident after downing then-No. 17 Clemson 4-3 in OT last week. It was the Garnet and Gold’s third straight win over a ranked-opponent at home on a Friday night dating back to 1999. Under Baker, FSU has never lost a Friday night home game (9-0-2) and is 13-1-3 all-time at home in night games.


“We gained a lot of confidence in the win over Clemson and hopefully we’ll feed off that Friday night,” said Tollefson. “I couldn’t wait for practice to start on Tuesday. We have been busting it all week, working hard for each other in preparation for the game against Florida. This game is all about pride. It comes down to FSU versus its biggest rival. We are excited and anxious. There is a lot of anticipation to play against UF on a Friday night under the light’s on our field.”


The Gators are off to the second-worst start in school history through eight games. The 2000 season was the only other time UF has been under .500 through eight games as they began the year 3-5-0. Florida has played a very difficult schedule having faced No. 8 Michigan (L 2-0), No. 12 Connecticut (W 3-2), No. 16 Nebraska (W 1-0), No. 17 Duke (L 2-1 OT), No. 6 Santa Clara (T 2-2) and No. 2 Stanford (L 4-0). The Seminoles will be the seventh ranked opponent the Gators have faced in nine games this season. The Gators have yet to win on the road this year (0-3-0) with just one of those three losses coming to an unranked opponent (Cincinnati).


“They have played as difficult a schedule as anybody could play in the first part of a season,” said Baker. “They haven’t just played a difficult schedule, they’ve gotten some big wins in those games.”


I’m looking forward to it. It’s my last match against the Gators. It is going to be huge. It has turned into a huge rivalry now that we have won a couple of times. The series has gone back and forth and has been pretty even. We are to the point where it is a flip of a coin.”


On top of the difficult schedule the Gators are trying to replace the loss of 44 goals from Andi Sellers and Abby Wambach. Wambach, the WUSA’s Rookie of the Year in 2002, accounted for 31 of those 44 goals by herself and was named an NSCAA first team All-American in 2001. Through eight games last year UF had already scored 16 goals, this year they have netted just 10.


“I think they have personality players this year but one of the things that is different is they have so many players that can beat you now,” said Baker. “Their players have specific roles now and things aren’t left to four or five players. The burden is spread amongst every member of that team.


“They are potentially as dangerous as they were with Wambach and Sellers because of the other players they have. Overall, they are just as talented. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t lose the kids they lost to WUSA, you don’t lose the best player in our professional league in Abby (Wambach) and not lose something but I think they have done a wonderful job making great use of the talent they have.”


There is no admission charge for Friday night’s game against Florida, as FSU will be looking to set its third attendance record of the year. In 2000, 1,282 fans saw the Gators and Seminoles play in Tallahassee, which is the second largest crowd ever at the Seminole Soccer Complex. If you are unable to attend the match in person, the game will be broadcast live by the Sunshine Network and can be seen locally on Comcast cable channel 28. Live stats will also be available for the match between the Gators and Seminoles exclusively at seminoles.com.

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