Nov. 24, 2002
Storrs, CT –
For the first time in 22 consecutive games dating back to August 30, 2002 the Florida State soccer team (13-7-3) was held without a goal as they fell in the Sweet 16 1-0 to Connecticut (21-2-1) Sunday. The 21st-ranked Seminoles, after giving up a goal just a minute into the game, limited the fourth-ranked Huskies to only one shot on goal over the next 88:50 while out shooting UConn 10-8, placing six shots on frame compared to just two for UConn and taking four corners compared to Connecticut’s two.
The Seminoles created numerous scoring chances but just couldn’t sneak one past All-BIG EAST first team keeper Maria Yatrakis (21-2-1) despite heavy pressure throughout the second half. After their early goal, the Huskies countered on the rare occasion and did their best to keep everything in front of them as FSU turned up the heat in frigid Storrs, CT.
“First off I like to congratulate UConn on a great game and advancing to the quarterfinals,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “I thought today was everything I imagined it would be but I obviously never thought we were going to lose. We weren’t over confident but I never expected this game to be decided in the first two minutes.”
Just 1:10 out of the gate the Huskies would put FSU back on its heels. Redshirt freshman Jennifer Sullivan sent a ball over the top to freshman Brittany Barkat inside the 18 to the right of the goal. The Texas native chipped a shot over keeper Kerry York (13-6-3) who was charging out and put UConn in front 1-0 before FSU even knew what hit them.
“We knew they were capable of striking a bigger ball. We had seen that on film,” said Baker. “We didn’t read the service and get the cushion we wanted to. In these types of games, it’s the little things. It was a great play by them too so give UConn credit.”
“This is the Sweet 16. We weren’t going to fold after giving up an early goal,” said Cindy Schofield. “We know that you have to play to the end and play all 90 minutes. We were confident we could score goals because we have been doing that all year.”
After the early score, Florida State showed they wouldn’t fold and controlled the next 15 minutes of the match allowing the Huskies to get across midfield on very few occasions. The Tribe had its first serious opportunity in the 14th minute. Sophomore Jez Ratliff won the ball in the middle of the field and she sent a long diagonal pass to senior All-American candidate Cindy Schofield on the left side. The striker, who was in behind the defense, served a dangerous ball through the box that the Connecticut defense had to knock over the crossbar to end the threat.
Two minutes later the Seminoles almost drew even off a corner kick. Junior defender Kristin Boyce beat Yatrakis to the service knocking the ball out of the keeper’s grasp. Boyce then located the loose ball and fired a shot on goal that was blocked off the line by the UConn defense before it could get into the net.
“I thought we responded well right after they scored,” said Baker. “We really had some wonderful opportunities, chances and half chances to change the complexion of the game but give their defense and goalkeeping credit as they kept us off the scoreboard.”
Florida State thought it would have a chance to even the game in the 35th minute via a penalty kick. Junior co-captain Amber Tollefson worked her way into the UConn box and as she got within 10 yards of the goal mouth she was chopped down on a hard tackle but no foul was called.
Just moments later FSU once again challenged Yatrakis and the Huskie defense. This time it was central midfielder Camie Bybee that sent a great ball down the center of the pitch. Freshman Leah Gallegos was in one-on-one with the keeper but Yatrakis came out of her box and was just able to beat Gallegos to the service, clearing it out of play.
Coming out of the half, Florida State turned up the pressure on the Connecticut backline and totally dominated the half. The Seminoles out shot Connecticut 9-3 in the second frame, took five shots on goal compared to just one for the Huskies and forced Yatrakis into five saves.
“We talked at halftime about trying to test the keeper because we really hadn’t forced her into many saves in the first half,” said Baker.
Just seconds in to the second period, Florida State pressured UConn in search of its first goal. Gallegos got herself free at the top of the UConn 18 and fired a low drive to the far post that just sailed wide by a matter of inches.
Later into the half Gallegos and Boyce combined on the left sideline freeing the freshman from Los Angeles inside the penalty box on the left side. Gallegos located Schofield in the middle and played the ball in to her. The senior, who had her back to the goal, was being closely marked and played the ball backwards but FSU was unable to get a clean shot off.
UConn’s one dangerous chance in the second half almost resulted in a 2-0 lead. Salla Ranta used her size to get free on the right side of the Florida State penalty box. She got around York and fired on the vacated goal but senior Meredith Jones was there to keep the ball out of the net and allow the Seminoles to continue to play for the equalizer.
The Garnet and Gold countered Connecticut’s best opportunity of the half with one of their own, this one the result of a set piece. Sophomore Katie Beal took the free kick from about 30 yards out and to the right of the goal. She served a brilliant ball to the backpost where Bybee attempted to latch on to it. The cross sailed just in front of her attempted header and still almost caught the backpost completely beating Yatrakis.
“I wanted to get to that ball so badly,” said Bybee. “I wasn’t concerned about what run I was making because I was just focused on trying to find the ball. I just couldn’t latch on to it.”
It was just two minutes later when FSU came within inches of drawing even. Bybee sent a great ball behind the defense and to sophomore Jez Ratliff. The wide midfielder dribbled across the top of the box and fired over the top of the Huskie keeper who had charged off her line. Yatrakis was just able to get her fist on the shot and knock it up into the air.
With 20 minutes remaining in the match, Florida State added Ratliff to the frontline as they played with three front runners in an attempt to get the equalizer.
“We put a premium on possession. It is tough because we usually force tams to change their system and do something they don’t characteristically do. Then with 20 minutes left we had to go for it and change our system to a 3-4-3 to try and create some chances,” said Baker. “We got some chances we just couldn’t put it away.”
Schofield started to take matters into her own hand as the Seminoles went to a three front.
The program’s most decorated player began to cause trouble for the UConn defense despite the fact she was held without a shot for the first time this season.
“I don’t think they focused on shutting me down because we have too many weapons. If a defense focuses on me, Leah (Gallegos) will get them and vice-a-versa,” said Schofield. “The same goes for Camie (Bybee) and so many other players on this team. We just have too much firepower to focus on one player.”
In the 77th minute Bybee set Schofield free in behind the defense but she was too deep in the Huskie box. She attempted to get the cross to Gallegos at the far post but the speed of the UConn defense closed in on her.
“I saw Leah (Gallegos) running backpost and I probably should have played it first time,” said Schofield. “The defender was just too quick and she got back giving us a corner kick. I didn’t have a really good angle so I decide to try to get it in to Leah after Camie played that great ball.”
With five minutes left in regulation, Schofield and the Seminole offense launched one attack after another on the Connecticut net. Schofield won a loose ball in the midfield. She played a perfect ball into Ratliff about 14 yards out from goal but Yatrakis once again just had a step on the forward and got to it just before Ratliff could take the shot.
Florida State’s best two chances in the closing moments came from Bybee. The Oklahoma native looked as if she had finally solved the UConn keeper when she settled a rebound at the top of the 18 and fired a low shot to the backpost. Once again Yatrakis was able to come up with a save as she made a sprawling dive to her left and corralled the shot.
With just moments remaining in the match, freshman Teresa Rivera almost became the hero with her corner kick service. The Parkland, FL native served a first rate ball to the backpost where Bybee had once again put herself in perfect position. The cross landed directly in front of Bybee but Yatrakis charged the sophomore and was able to smother the attempt before it could find its way into the back of the net.
The loss marked the end of five senior’s careers at Florida State. The group, who came to Tallahassee on the heels of four losing seasons in five years and no wins in the history of the program in the ACC or NCAA Tournament, reshaped the program into a national power. With their second Sweet 16 trip in the last three years, FSU’s five seniors accomplished something less than five percent of the 287 schools playing Division I soccer have. They played for an ACC Championship, became the first class to leave with a winning record versus Florida, went 21-3-0 over four years against in-state competition and established the best four-year record in program history.
“This senior class has changed the complexion of our program,” said Baker. “Four years ago nobody wanted to come to Florida State to play women’s soccer. Now we have been in the Sweet 16 two of the last three years. We’ve had three consecutive Top 25 recruiting classes. Ten years from now you will look back at this period of time and know something special happened and it is Cindy and the four other seniors that really changed everything.”
Schofield ends her record setting career as the most prolific offensive player to ever wear the garnet and gold. She owns every career and single season record, she owns every postseason and ACC record at FSU and she put together the two best seasons in the history of Florida State soccer. The two-time All-ACC first team selection re-wrote FSU soccer history in her four years as a Seminole.
“Cindy is arguably one of the best goal scorers in the country,” said Baker. “There is a difference between a goal scorer and a forward. She is a very good forward but she finds the net no matter who we face. She finds the net and scores goals for us in the conference, in the NCAA Tournament and everywhere else. She is one of the best players I have ever been allowed to coach. She and all of our seniors will be sorely missed.”
The 2002 seasons was another record-breaking campaign for Florida State. The squad equaled the 1996 team’s mark for the fewest losses in program history and that squad never played in an NCAA Tournament. The Tribe had the third-most wins of any Seminole team, they finished in the top half of the ACC standings for the second straight year and they won their third straight opening round match in the NCAA Tournament.