Oct. 1, 2004
“The first road trip at any point of the year is exciting and ours just happens to be one of the latest in the country this year,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “A lot of positives come from getting away. You get the team off campus and they are more together and united. There is a lot more interaction and your focus is strictly on the game. We demonstrated last year we could do some good things on the road and a number of those players are back. We will try to recreate that starting tonight.”
“The season has kind of flown by since we have been at home so much and been in the same routine,” said senior captain Jez Ratliff. “I’m glad to be on the road. The team really becomes closer spending some time away from distractions. It will also be good to play on an opponent’s field. We know what it takes to try and defend your home field but we don’t know yet how hard it is to win on the road. It would be huge for us to secure an ACC road win but we know it won’t be easy.”
One of the keys if FSU is to get its first road win of the season will be limiting the effectiveness of a dynamic Duke offense. Led by reigning ACC Player of the Week Casey McCluskey, the Blue Devils are averaging 3.47 goals per game. McCluskey is leading the effort with 11 of Duke’s 35 goals. Duke has already tallied 110 points this year, more than double FSU’s 53.
“McCluskey is a great player,” said central defender Kelly Rowland. “We have to try and limit the amount of time she gets the ball and faces up because she is very skillful. I think we will be aware of her but there are a lot of other players we need to be aware of as well. We will try to keep our heads in the game and limit all of Duke’s weapons as much as we can.”
Florida State’s defense held up very well in last week’s test versus a Virginia offense that was also ranked in the top 10 in the nation and averaging over three goals per game. The Seminoles limited UVa to just one goal in a 1-0 loss but it was still a loss and that fact was not lost on Rowland.
“I think we did a pretty good job in the back limiting a potent Virginia offense and we will get another big test tonight,” said Rowland. “I think we can still defend better as a team. After the Virginia game, we realized we need to work harder. Against Duke, hopefully we can prove we are one of the best defenses in the country versus one of the best offenses in the nation.”
The importance of the only meeting of the week between ranked ACC teams can’t be understated when it comes to jockeying for position in the race for the ACC crown. Duke is currently 1-0 in the conference while FSU is even at 1-1. The two squads have consistently fought for positioning behind North Carolina and with Virginia in the past few years and the winner would have a huge advantage in the race to finish at or near the top of the conference. A loss would knock FSU below .500 in ACC play. The last time FSU was below .500 in the conference was the start of the 2002 season a fate FSU will look to avoid repeating Friday evening.
“There are so few teams in ACC play that have fallen a game or two below .500 and then managed to go on a great run,” said Baker. “It just doesn’t happen that much. With the league getting some separation, this is big. Ourselves and Duke will be somewhere in the middle of the pack and separation from that starts tonight for either team.”
“I think this is an extremely important game,” said Ratliff. “Duke and Florida State are always jockeying for position near the top of the ACC and this will go a long way to deciding where we each finish. The teams are so evenly matched and this is going to be a battle. To get a win in a 50/50 game is very important.”
Florida State has held the edge in the series as of late. The Seminoles have not lost to Duke since 2000 when the team fell 3-2 to the Blue Devils in Durham. The last time the teams met in North Carolina they played to a 1-1 draw. Last season the Seminoles downed Duke 3-0 in Tallahassee, which was the most lopsided defeat in the series’ history matching the 3-0 loss Duke handed FSU in 1996.
“I am sure they are going to come out and want to avenge that loss from last year,” said Rowland. “It is an ACC game so Duke won’t need any extra motivation. I think this is going to be a great game between two great ACC teams. It will be fun to see what unfolds.”
For Florida State, Baker expects to start his seventh different line-up in 10 games and freshmen have played a large part in the line-up shuffle. If the Tribe is to go into Koskinen Stadium and beat the Blue Devils, they will need their freshmen to play like veterans in a difficult place where FSU has never won.
“I will tell our freshmen to remember the environment at our Virginia game and know that when you walk into that environment they will be all against us this time,” said Ratliff. “That atmosphere helped us even in a loss at home and it will help Duke here.”
Game Tracker will be available for tonight’s match, which is set for a 7:00 p.m. kick off. Live stats will be available through the official athletic website for Florida State University at seminoles.com.