Sept. 4, 2004
Tallahassee, FL — For just the second time in the history of the program Florida State soccer has started a season 3-0. The third-ranked Seminoles (3-0-0) downed Georgia (0-1-2) 1-0 Friday night to equal the best start in team history. Jez Ratliff scored a game-winner for the second straight game and Leah Gallegos recorded an assist for her third consecutive match. Kelly Rowland also picked up her third assist of the year. The win moves the 2004 squad into a tie with the 2000 team with the only 3-0 starts in school history.
“Early on I thought we played fairly well and in the second half we were all over the place,” said Seminole head coach Patrick Baker. “Some of that was us and a lot of that was how well Georgia was playing. We grinded out a result. We scored an early goal and made it stand up. We talked about wanting to get that first shutout and we did that. We may not have played as well as we would have liked but to play without Camie (Bybee) in the midfield and still get a shutout and a win is a good result.”
“This is obviously a better start than 1-4 last year so it feels good,” said captain Ratliff. “This game we kind of eked out but there are going to be games like this. These games are the type you sometimes end up tying or losing and we were able to get a result. Being 3-0 is a great start.”
The shutout was the first of the year for FSU and moved starter Joy McKenzie (3-0-0) into third place on the career shutout list with 8.5. Florida State out-shot the Bulldogs 13 to seven and took seven corners to UGA’s three. The lone goal of the game came in just the 24th minute marking the first time this year that FSU broke on top first in a game. The win moved FSU to 16-1-3 all-time at home on Friday nights under Baker and the Seminole coach is now 12-4 versus the SEC since coming to Tallahassee.
“Its great to get that first shutout of the season,” said McKenzie. “It is always hard to get that first one but you hope when it comes they start to become a pattern. Hopefully that is what we are about to start. If we defend like we did tonight, there is a good chance of that happening.”
“Starting off the season we needed to develop a feel for one another again,” said Kelly Rowland. “We are just getting back to where we left off last season. We’ll get there. We have improved each game and hopefully we will get to that high level of consistency.”
This is the third straight game FSU has lowered it goals allowed. After giving up two goals in a win versus No. 11 Arizona State opening day, the Seminoles turned around a day later and limited USC to just one goal. Tonight the Tribe went one better by holding Georgia to just five shots on goal all evening and no goals.
“I think we are getting more comfortable in the back and the more repetition we get the better we will be,” said McKenzie. “Once we get into a rhythm and get the kinks worked out we will play a lot better with one another. We worked some things out in the first couple of games and defensively I thought we did pretty well tonight.”
While it may have been the first time the Tribe scored first the format was familiar. The play started with a Rowland throw in. With her usual target Bybee missing due to a minor injury, Rowland played the ball to Gallegos. The All-American found Ratliff in the middle and the senior headed it home. It was Rowland’s third assist of the season and Ratliff’s 19th career goal moving her into a tie for third place all-time.
“That throw-in is usually played to Camie but we didn’t have her so we played it to Leah’s feet,” said Ratliff. “She used her magical skills to get endline. I just tried to get something on it and keep it on frame. Fortunately I was able to do that.”
Although the Tribe was able to score on the set piece on which Bybee is a key player, not having the senior midfielder was a big void. The Oklahoman is off to a dominating start and she was named to both the Soccer America and Soccer Buzz National Teams of the Week this week. While her injury was minor, the hole in the central midfield was huge.
“It was great to get a shutout and good to get a win in a game we just had to survive without Camie,” said Rowland. “She is a huge part of what we do so it was hard to play without a player of her caliber. It will be good to have her back this week.”
The Seminoles got off to a good start led by Bybee’s fellow Oklahoman Ratliff. The senior would probably be fighting Bybee for MVP honors through the first three games and she showed why just four minutes into the match. Ratliff, playing on the right side, sent a ball around a UGA defender and down the line only to run passed the defender and collect her own pass. She then found Julia Schnugg who back heeled a pass to Rachel McDowell but she just couldn’t pull the trigger from about eight yards away.
Just over 10 minutes later Gallegos and Ratliff worked a 1-2 sending Ratliff endline. Her cross looked to be heading right to two Seminoles but Georgia keeper Ashley Lindley (0-1-1) came out to snare the cross.
In the 20th minute Gallegos had her first look at goal. The play started with a free kick that Schnugg flicked on to Gallegos. The junior collected the pass just to the left side of the far post and right on the endline. She tried to go top shelf but her shot just sailed over the crossbar.
Three minutes later FSU capitalized. Rowland’s long throw was played to Gallegos’ feet. The preseason All-American found Ratliff’s head and the senior blasted a shot off the crossbar. The ball bounced down over the line for the goal. The referee did not signal goal right away but he checked with his linesman and pointed to the center circle.
“I knew it went in because saw it hit the crossbar and bounce at least a yard inside the net,” said Ratliff. “There was some backspin on it so it bounced out of the net but we all knew it went in and started to celebrate.”
“With Camie out, it was my responsibility to assume her role in that particular set piece, said Gallegos. “My flicks are no where as good as Camie’s so Kelly and I decided to play it to my feet. I tried to turn the corner and I was able to find Jez’s head.”
Gallegos’ third assist was her second game-winner and third assist on a goal that put FSU ahead in a game. The junior hasn’t got her first goal of the season yet but last season she didn’t score her first goal until the fourth game of the year and ended up with 18. Her role in the Tribe offense has been crucial early in the season as illustrated by the timing and magnitude of her three assists.
“I shared with her that she can’t get caught up in the goals and the stats,” said Baker. “She went three games without scoring last year so there is nothing to worry about there. We are winning and she is a huge part of that. She is creating chances for herself and her teammates. That is all we can ask. The goals will come.”
Florida State kept looking to add to the lead and in the 33rd minute. Ratliff and Schnugg worked a give and go which sent Schnugg in behind the Bulldog backline. Schnugg played the ball back into Ratliff but her half volley went just wide of the net.
Sarah Rosseau had a chance to extend the FSU lead before the half expired. The redshirt sophomore collected a cleared corner kick at the top of the 18. Her high, arching shot just went over the crossbar. Rosseau was one of five Seminole subs that got more playing time in the third game of the year than they did in the first two matches.
“We weren’t sharp at times and we need some new legs and a little bit of life out there,” said Baker. “We put Rosseau in. She just got cleared and had been doing well in training. I am not sure she was playing her best position but she did well. Armani Rice was another player who got some time and we think she is going to blossom into a great player for us.”
The most controversial moment in the game came in the 57th minute on a great ball by India Trotter. The sophomore sliced the entire Georgia D in half as she sent a long pass from the top of the FSU 18 to midfield where Gallegos picked up the ball in stride. The junior was charging free towards the keeper when Catherine Bruce pulled the striker down from behind 25 yards from goal. The Bulldog was yellow carded despite FSU’s protests that she should have been ejected from the game.
Georgia’s best chance came in the 81st minute when Cortni Joyner got in to the box and headed to goal. McKenzie came out to cut down the angle and as Joyner shot her momentum carried her into McKenzie and the two collided. The ball bounced away from goal but McKenzie laid on the surface shaken up.
“Number 18 on Georgia was slotted through and I had to come out because I didn’t see anyone else coming in,” said McKenzie. “Kelly (Rowland) was there and we both collided with her. I got a piece of the ball but we banged our heads together pretty hard. I can feel it now.”
Florida State’s next scheduled game will be Friday, September 10 versus No. 5 Florida (2-1). The game time has been changed to 6:00 p.m. to accommodate the FSU fans who want to watch the season opening football game later that night. Florida State could be back in action before that game as FSU and UM officials continue to discuss a make-up date for the game that was supposed to be played this evening. As soon as a date and time is announced it will be released on the official athletic site for Florida State athletics, www.seminoles.com.