Sept. 21, 2002
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Senior Meredith Jones is in the final stretch of a stellar four-year career at FSU. The midfielder/defender has appeared in every game but two during her three-plus years and has been a fixture in the Seminole back line. She is in the truest sense of the phrase a student-athlete. The double major (biochemistry and Italian) is enrolled in the FSU Honors Program on top of excelling on the field. As she enters the final three months of her soccer career, she sat down and reflected back on her time in Tallahassee, her northeastern roots and her fellow senior classmates.
THAT PHILLY ATTITUDE
Jones grew up in West Chester, PA, which is just about 35 minutes away from Philadelphia. Coming to the south turned out to be quiet a culture shock for her. After arriving in Tallahassee, she really noticed that “Philly attitude” was quite different to the laid back attitudes in Tallahassee.
“I think there is a misconception about me because of where I am from,” said Jones. “When people first meet me I think they kind of avoid me. They think I am mean but I’m not. It is just so different in the northeast. I feel like a lot of people in the south respond completely different to me than what I am used to.”
Jones really noticed that when it came to soccer. The northeasterner was used to teammates who weren’t always positive on the field and coaches who never shied away from telling a player when she wasn’t playing well. That was fine with her because she knew it was all about making her a better player and they used that attitude to fire her up.
“Growing up and playing soccer, I never had a real rah-rah pre-game speech,” she recalls. “I always had hard, intense speeches from my coaches. Playing up north I was afraid of some of the upperclassmen in high school and that made me play better. I definitely think it is a regional thing. Everyone I played with up in club and high school acted the same way I do. It was the same way on my lacrosse team too.
“You have to be more constructive with your criticism and that isn’t a bad thing. Some people don’t respond well to harsher criticism and that is something I started to realize as a sophomore but I saw other players who played in the northeast who were just like me. Dee Foard was one of them. The same things that got me pumped up pumped her up. I responded to her.”
Being more conscious of her demeanor and what she says on the field is something Jones continues to work on to this day. She has learned that different people need different motivations. She is always going to be a Philly girl but as a senior she knows that she has to adjust to what motivates other people for the good of the team.
“I have been trying to learn to treat people differently and that is hard because it is different than they way I was on the field my entire life,” said Jones. “Coach (Patrick) Baker coached in Philadelphia and I think that he has seen that before. He has told me in the past to bring my Philly attitude on occasions when he thinks the team needs that but in a good way.
“I am very conscious of my demeanor on the field now. I am trying to be aware of who responds to that and who doesn’t. I have learned how to deal with different types of people. Not everyone responds the same way to the same thing. I have learned to adapt. It is a process of getting to know your teammates. If being less intense and more cheery on the field will light a person’s fire, that’s what I will do because it ultimately will help the team.”
Jones is not only adjusting to her teammates but the more they get to know her, the more they understand where she is coming from. She was voted a captain by her teammates in 2000 and believes it’s just a process of different people from different backgrounds learning about one another.
“I think my senior teammates know me better than anyone since we have been together for four seasons and they respond to my intensity,” said Jones. “I think once people got to know me they started to understand me a little more. They knew I came off one way on the field but that wasn’t me off the field. I am very intense and very passionate and I think my teammates eventually realized that was where I was coming from and understood me more. I think they know that I have the team’s best interests at heart but it became a joke that I was the scary girl on the team.”
FROM NORTH TO SOUTH
So why did this girl from West Chester decide to come south for school. On top of Florida offering sunshine almost 365 days a year, Jones really didn’t have Florida State on her radar screen as the recruiting process entered February. With time running out, Jones was having second thoughts about her near commitment to Penn.
“I was ready to commit to Penn because I was really attracted to it being an Ivy League school,” she remembers. “Then coach Baker left Penn and came to FSU and I took a visit to Tallahassee. I had just the best recruiting trip ever. There were seven of us and I think five committed.
“The trip took place in February, which was pretty late in the process. I think that was an advantage though. I sometimes think there is too much soccer on recruiting trips and you don’t get to see everything else a school has to offer. The season was over when we came in and we went to a baseball game, we got to meet the basketball coach at dinner and there were things like that we may have missed out on if there were two soccer games the weekend we were in town. It was a great weekend and I loved the team. It was so much fun and I loved Tallahassee. Since I didn’t know who was going to take over at Penn, I really didn’t feel comfortable committing there despite the lure of attending an Ivy League school.”
If she was going to bypass an Ivy League education, Jones felt she had to be somewhere special that could also offer her a top rate education. When she had the opportunity to enroll in the honors program at FSU that made her decision much easier. Looking back on it, Jones couldn’t be happier with her choice despite the fact that if she had it to do over again, she would have looked at things besides educational opportunities.
“I felt I was really na?ve in the recruiting process looking back on it,” Jones reflected. “There were a lot of things I didn’t consider that I probably should have. I love the whole athletic program here and once I got to Tallahassee I was just so amazed by the support staff. I never considered that aspect when choosing a school but now that I have seen how important that is to our everyday lives, it is such a huge bonus about FSU. We are so spoiled here and I never understood how great it was until I got here.
“When I went to visit Penn, the facilities were no match. Their field is next to 1-76. If you mis-hit a ball, it’s on the highway. The girls washed their own uniforms, which isn’t a big deal but is such a luxury here at Florida State to have someone do that for you. It is amazing all the people that are here to help us. Whenever you need anything, there are at least five or six people here to help you. It is just amazing. My friends at other schools just don’t get the luxuries we do here.”
HER SENIOR CLASS
When Jones and her fellow seniors arrived in 1999, there were 13 of them. Today there are five. That attrition has created a very special bond among this year’s senior class. They have been through a lot together and take a lot of pride in the fact that they have been here for four years.
“When I think about them, I think about them more outside of soccer. I used to just see them as other players but now I see them as friends for life,” said Jones. “I am still close to some of those eight girls in our class that aren’t at FSU anymore. We had such a great time freshman year but the five of us that are still here are so close because of the experiences we have shared. I know we will be friends the rest of our lives.”
Each senior has had their tough times on and off the field in their four years. From injuries to Katie Talley and Meredith Jones to personal tragedies with friends and family, they have always been there for each other. These seniors rely on one another and that has created a special bond among all five of them.
“We rely on each other a lot. There is no way I would have made it through some of the tough times I have gone through if it weren’t for them,” said Jones. “We are all there for each other and that was especially true last year. We had some tough times off the field but we were there for one another. If anything isn’t right in my life, the first person I call is one of my classmates. We have leaned on each other so much through our four years. We rely on each other for everything.”
“They are the reason I have enjoyed my time so much. College sports aren’t always fun but they (senior classmates) are the reason it has been as fun as it has. There are always going to be tough times whether it is in sports or life and there are going to be times when you aren’t happy. Ultimately, the experiences I have had on and off the field with my classmates have been awesome.”
The most amazing part about the closeness of this senior class according to Jones is how different they are from one another. Despite geography, the five seniors are from four different states, they each have different opinions and outlooks on life. It makes for interesting “debates”.
“We have totally different personalities and have gotten in huge arguments because we all have different views on things,” said Jones. “But we have such a great class. We are all so different. We have completely different opinions yet we get along so well. It is really neat.”
When Jones and her four fellow seniors end their college soccer careers, hopefully in Austin, TX at the College Cup, they will leave Tallahassee as the most successful class ever. They have already gone to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, garnered back-to-back Top 20 rankings and played in the ACC Championship finals. But Jones believes her class was part of the success, not the reason for it.
“I don’t think we were the foundation for this success,” said Jones. “I never thought that about our class. I think we helped but the foundation for our program to become successful started before we got here. It started with Angela Bonaffino and her class. It started with Dee (Foard), Sarah Deacon, Rachael Watkin and Heather Dyche. Those classes started this. They were awesome.
“Our class was the last one that experienced a somewhat tough season. Our freshman year we didn’t go to the tournament and we are the only ones that are left to ever experience that. We are just a part of where this program is now but it started before we arrived.”
ones learned from the two classes ahead of her. She carries with her the lessons that former Seminole soccer standouts imparted to her both in words and actions. To this day, she still reflects back on those lessons learned.
“They taught me not to take anything for granted. Now that we are successful, they taught me that you couldn’t take it for granted,” she said. “We know that it doesn’t come easy. It is hard for the other classes to realize that because they have experienced nothing but success. They have never known anything else.
“We also learned that no matter how hard things seem, you have to look at the big picture. You are having this great experience and are privileged to be playing college soccer. Have fun with it. Christy Peacock taught me that and I think our freshmen will really miss out never playing with a person like her.”
When school ends, that’s when the fun begins according to Jones. The senior is planning to travel a lot. She’ll spend some time in the US but she will end up in Europe. The double major in biochemistry and Italian is anxious to put her education to practice in Italy
“I took Latin in high school and took a trip to Italy with my class. I feel in love with it,” Jones recalls. “I loved it there. I would like to live there but I am still considering what I want to do. I want to combine my other major, biochemistry and maybe work for a pharmaceutical company in international business. That seems like a good way to combine both my majors because I still love science.
“I just want to take advantage of this time. Once I start my career and finish more schooling, I know I won’t have the time to travel. I am going to take advantage of that now.”