By Zach Mendelson, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – No. 7 Florida State (10-2-0) currently leads the ACC standings with a perfect 4-0 conference record, but the Seminoles’ season will now begin to get much more difficult this week as they travel to play the two-time defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels (11-1-1) at Chapel Hill on Thursday at 7:00pm.
North Carolina, who has won 21 national titles since 1981, and finished first in the ACC every year but twice, poses a difficult challenge for the Seminoles. During the last trip to Chapel Hill in 2008, Florida State tied North Carolina 2-2 in double overtime, but that is the closest they have come as the Seminoles have never beaten North Carolina in Chapel Hill, but have tied the Heels twice at their homefield.
“I think that everyone looks at their program with great respect and understands that they have like 20 national championships, I think they kind of lose track after a while,” said head coach Mark Krikorian. “I say that jokingly, but it’s out of respect to the work that they continue to do and we’re excited to go out there and compete. We’ve had some success against them the last couple of years. We had a heck of a game where we came back to tie, and last year here we were fortunate to win on a golden goal with Ella Stephan scoring at the end, but you know we have all the respect in the world for that group. We think our group is pretty special too, and we look forward to going out and measuring ourselves.”
If there is one thing Seminole fans should not have to worry about, it’s the Seminoles losing their focus or getting overconfident for this particular game.
“It’s easy to get ready to play Carolina,” said Krikorian. “It’s the one game of the year that you really don’t have to motivate the kids for, probably like Florida as well, just because of the nature of the respect that we have for them, the rivalry, and the fact that they are such a good program. Our kids will be excited to play Carolina and look forward to getting up there and trying to find ourselves a resulting game.”
The Seminoles know that the environment in Chapel Hill to not be a friendly one.
“We know it will be a hostile environment up in Chapel Hill,” remarked Krikorian. “There will be a lot of people there, and not a whole lot of garnet and gold I would expect, but the folks that are there will certainly be good for us.”
“The environment at UNC will be completely different,” added senior captain Amanda DaCosta. “Just the whole feel of the game, UNC plays unlike any team we will ever play against because their style is completely different. That’s why we prepare for them for so long. We started to prepare for them on Sunday and we normally don’t do that.”
North Carolina is currently riding on a three-game winning streak, but the Seminoles have a winning streak of their own having won six straight games since falling in overtime to Florida. For the Seminoles to extend their winning streak tomorrow, they will likely have change the pace and style of the game to their fashion.
“I think the biggest key to Carolina is whose going to put their stamp on the game,” said Krikorian. “There can’t be two teams that have more different playing styles than us and Carolina. Carolina’s attack is so much based upon their hard work and their defending. Ours is much more about the beauty of the game, possession, slowing the tempo, probing passes, rather than longer balls and trying to get the ball into the penalty box. Their view is more about a territorial battle while ours is more about keeping the ball and making a more possessive game.”
Junior Tori Huster shared her coach’s sentiments, “They bring a little bit more to the table, a little bit more intensity and a little bit more skill, so I just think it’s really important to be prepared for the individuals that they have on their team as well as their team as a whole. They don’t play like anybody else does, but how they play is very effective, so I think we have to come out with a lot of intensity ourselves and a lot of fight.”
Overall this match will mark the 27th all-time meeting between Florida State and North Carolina as the series dates back to the Seminoles’ first season of soccer in 1995. FSU split the season series with UNC last year winning 3-2 in double overtime at home from a golden goal by Ella Stephan, but later fell 3-0 to the Tar Heels in the ACC Championship game. The all-time record against North Carolina is paltry 2-22-2, as FSU won their first match against UNC in 2000 during a 3-2 double overtime thriller at home.
Amazingly five of the last eight matches have gone to overtime, but the Seminoles have gone 1-5-2 in those games. While the Seminoles have had limited success against North Carolina, the team firmly believes that what has happened in the past will have no bearing on what happens this season.
“There is a difference in our preparation, but our mindset is still the exactly the same,” added DaCosta. We know that it’s going to be a very big game for us, and we have a tough stretch coming in front of us in the ACC, but every game is still worth three points. A win against Clemson is just as much as a win against UNC, so it’s all the same.”
While a victory or loss is worth the same regardless of who they play, the team is looking forward to this matchup.
“I think it’s one of those games in the ACC we look forward to every year,” said junior defender Toni Pressley. “I think everyone’s really excited. We beat them last year here in overtime and we want to give the same performance and effort as we did last year, but this time it’s in their backyard.” Added Huster, “We have had a good start in the ACC, but we need to continue with what we have been doing and just try to improve every game.”
Following the UNC game, FSU will stay on the road to face the N.C. State Wolfpack (7-7-0) in Raleigh on Sunday at 1:00pm. The team with then return home to play against the No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers (8-3-1) on Thursday, Oct. 21st at 7:00pm and then remain at home for senior day against the No. 25 Virginia Tech Hokies (8-5-0) on Sunday, Oct. 24th at 1:00pm.