Sept. 3, 2004
The FSU soccer team (2-0-0) will take the field tonight at 7:00 p.m. versus the University of Georgia (0-0-2) in a game that wasn’t even on the schedule two days ago. With Hurricane Frances bearing down on South Florida, the third-ranked Seminoles will do their best to keep focused on the game. A difficult task for any of the 10 players whose families could be directly in the path of the category three hurricane.
“It will be hard to play Friday night especially those of us from South Florida because we will obviously be worried about our families,” said Alli Ferreri, a Coral Springs resident. “There comes a time during the game when you have to try to block that out and focus on the task at hand. We worked really hard to get where we are and we don’t what that effort to be in vain.”
“Charley already hit us and my parents are boarding up the windows,” said Lake Mary’s Holly Peltzer. “They are just going to wait out the hurricane. I will do my best to keep my focus on the game while keeping them in the back of my mind.”
The same goes for the FSU coaching staff who made the decision to go forward with a game in Tallahassee when matches versus Miami and FAU were cancelled by the respective schools. Georgia was also scheduled to play those two opponents this weekend so tonight’s match was an obvious fit.
“We are thinking of all our kids families in South Florida, the Miami players and coaches and the FAU players and coaches,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “We are thinking of everybody down in that area. You hope that everyone is safe and sound and that any damage is minimal. Hopefully a lot of our players parents will get out of that part of the state and come up here and watch us play if possible. It is a concern for us. People realize the damage of the last storm and this hurricane has the potential to be even worse so it is scary.”
“It is hard being away from your family with a hurricane bearing down,” said Miami native Jessica Vaccaro. “Your family has to go through it alone and you aren’t there to help them prepare. You have to balance that with the fact we need to concentrate on the game. You just have to hope everybody is able to stay safe. My family will put up the shutters and just try to be real cautious. We have been through this before but that doesn’t make it easier.”
On top of dealing with family concerns due to Frances, the players have the added burden of shifting their focus and routine from a road trip to play two games including your ACC opener to hosting a tough SEC team at home. Although the situation is the best possible alternative, it still takes a shift in the player’s mindset.
“It will be tough to shift our focus because every one was getting pumped up to open conference play with Miami,” said senior captain Joy McKenzie. “We were getting into that travel mode and everything got switched around. On the other hand, having a home game is great. We will always get pumped up to play under the lights on a Friday night. I don’t think it will be that hard to re-focus because we always get up to play on Friday nights. It could turn out to be a bonus because we play another quality opponent and we get to play them at home.”
Even with the hurricane weighing on some minds, there is a much more upbeat feel around the Seminole Soccer Complex when discussions turn to the team’s play on the field. The Tribe will play tonight’s game with the highest ranking in school history at No. 3 in all three polls released this week. The team is also 2-0 for the first time since 2001 and is off to a much better start than 2003 when the Tribe stumbled out of the gate to an 0-2 and then 1-4 start.
“The feeling around here is 180 degrees different from last year when we were 0-2 and then 1-4,” said McKenzie. “I think everybody is just more excited to come and step out everyday. You look at each upcoming game with excitement instead of last year when we went out each day just trying to get back to .500. Now we go into every game looking to keep this positive start going. It is a better place to be and were are all obviously much happier with the start.”
“One of the biggest differences at the start of this year is our system of play,” said Baker. “Last year we tried a new system with new personnel at the start of the season it didn’t work the way we hoped and we learned a valuable lesson. We went back to the old system and our only losses were to Virginia, North Carolina and UConn over a two-month period that plus the experience of the players coming back with 10 of 11 starters returning. That is a far cry from the amount of players we usually have returning. It has allowed us to play at a whole different level.”
Even though the Seminoles are 2-0, have the highest national ranking in program history and have a player, Camie Bybee, who swept weekly national awards after opening weekend, Baker stills sees plenty of room for improvement. Video study has allowed his players to see plenty of areas in which the team must improve and Baker believes this team is not going to get caught up in the high rankings and national awards.
“A lot of the players spent extra time this week doing the extra things it takes to be successful so I don’t think anyone is satisfied with a high ranking and a 2-0 start,” said Baker. “We all saw the mistakes we made when we watched the video so there is a lot of room to make the overall picture better. We understand that starts with individual play. The focus this week has been doing more, not doing less. I give the players a lot of credit. Probably the entire starting line-up has not only seen the video with the team but watched segments individually. We’ve had dry board sessions in groups of twos and threes on how to break things down so it is more the mental aspect we are working on this week. We want them to picture it, see it and then replicate it so they can be successful when we play Georgia Friday.
“As we prepared for Miami and FAU early in the week, our coaching staff talked about how it is more about us getting better than us specifically preparing for an opponent. It’s about where are we at right now. We played two great teams opening weekend and we got two wonderful results. We need to continue that and expand on it as well. I feel very good about this team right up the middle of the field. With Katie Beal, Kelly Rowland, India Trotter, Camie Bybee, Leah Gallegos and Julia Schnugg, I think we are where we need to be right now. It is our wide players that we need to keep focusing on and keep refining. It isn’t that they aren’t playing well, we just need to get them to the same level as those central players. If we are able to do that, we will be performing at an entirely different level as a unit.”
Continuing the team’s strong play up the middle and improving the wide play will be key in getting a result versus Georgia. While the Bulldogs have started the season 0-0-2, they are just a year removed from an NCAA Tournament berth. Last season the Dogs upset Clemson in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and they have their sights set on another big ACC win to get their season on track.
“I think a win would be great for Georgia especially against a team with a lofty national ranking after a couple of ties,” said Baker. “We were in the top five last weekend and we saw the type of game USC and Arizona State brought to us. We know we are going to be hunted but if we continue to do what we did last weekend, we have a great opportunity to be successful. We just have to make sure we stay fit and injury free, keep creating the types of chances we did last week and put the right people in the right place to take advantage of those opportunities than a lot of good things can happen.”
Tonight’s game is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. start at the Seminole Soccer Complex. Admission is free but if you are unable to attend the game, live Internet audio and Game Tracker will both be available free of charge. You can find links to both options at the official athletic website for Florida State University, www.seminoles.com.