Sept. 1, 2006
Tempe, AZ — Mark Krikorian’s Florida State soccer team will open its 2006 road schedule in unfamiliar territory and that isn’t referring to the program’s first game in the state of Arizona. When the Seminoles and Sun Devils face off Friday night at 10:00 p.m. ET, FSU will be sporting a No. 1 ranking for the first time in school history. Arizona State will be the first team looking to knock FSU off its lofty perch.
“Obviously this is a position we have never been in before,” said team captain Kelly Rowland about the team playing its first game ever with a No. 1 ranking. “Every team wants to be in this spot though so we are looking at this as a positive. I really think this team will come out like we did for every game. Just like we did last year when we were unranked. We have to play hard and we know that. There is still a lot of room for improvement.”
“I spent about three seconds talking to the team about the No. 1 ranking,” said FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian. “I told the team this is a spot we’d much rather hold in December than today but it is nice to see that our program has earned that type of respect. I tried to impart to our team that the rankings don’t mean anything in the second week of the season. Their focus is on Arizona State and that is where it needs to be.”
It’s not just being the top-ranked team in Soccer America’s poll that’s going to make things tough for FSU in the desert. The Sun Devils enter the game with a 2-0 record and Arizona State has yet to surrender a goal in 2006. It is the first time ASU has ever hosted a team ranked No. 1 so the Devils and their fans will be ready for the top-ranked Seminoles.
“It happens every time you go on the road, you are going to have the crowd against you,” said All-American India Trotter. “It is an obstacle that you can’t control. You have to do your best to take a negative and use it to your advantage. If you are able to be successful in that environment, you have a chance to take the crowd out of the game.”
FSU has had some success versus the Pac-10 historically. Florida State had not played a single game versus a Pac-10 team in its first five years of existence but in just the last six years that number has jumped to 10. FSU is 7-2-1 all-time versus Pac-10 teams. While the Seminoles lost the last game they played versus a Pac-10 squad, against UCLA in the 2005 College Cup, the team was on a four-game win streak versus those schools prior to that Bruin game.
Surprisingly, FSU has fared better when playing a Pac-10 team at their home than anywhere else. The Seminoles are a stellar 3-0 all-time versus Pac-10 teams in their home stadium. The last win on the road for FSU versus a Pac-10 team was the 2005 season opener when FSU stunned No. 18 Southern Cal 4-0. The other two wins came on a road trip to Oregon when FSU defeated Oregon and Oregon State in 2001.
Despite the success last year versus USC, the first game of the season on the road for FSU has not been the kindest of matches in Seminole soccer history. Florida State is 4-7 all-time in its first away game of the season. Things did get a lot better in 2005 though when FSU opened the year on the road with the upset of USC, which began a five-game win streak in road contests tying the longest road win streak in school history. It was also the most consecutive road wins to start a season in program history.
“I think we are pretty confident considering we played well in away games last year,” said Trotter. “Every game you have to approach the same whether you are home or away. You have to come out and give your best effort no matter where the game is or who the opponent is. That is the way we will try to approach every game.”
“The first game on the road is always exciting,” said Rowland. “It is a great chance for the team to bond early in the season. Obviously we want to do well on the road. We know it will be a tough environment and a tough opponent Friday night. If we stick together, hopefully we will get a result.”
FSU will also enter the game still riding high from its opening day upset of defending National Champion Portland. The win was pretty special when you consider the resume Portland came in with. Not only were they the defending National Champions but the Pilots had a 26-match unbeaten streak dating back to the 2004 NCAA quarterfinals. Not only did FSU beat Portland but they did it in a manner that is pretty rare. FSU became just the third team in the last 41 matches to score two goals against Portland. The Seminoles also had more shots versus the Pilots (25) than any team in at least the last five years and limited UP to the fewest shots (5) as a team since October 24, 2004.
“I don’t think this team will play any differently even after the emotional win last weekend versus Portland,” said preseason All-American Selin Kuralay. “This team is pretty grounded. We have never been an arrogant team. We just don’t have that type of attitude. We are confident in each other and that is what is going to help us on the park. If we trust in each other and the way we play, we can be successful.
“We know on any day any team can win. We will approach Arizona State the same way we approached Portland and in the same way we will approach Loyola on Sunday. That’s the only way to be successful.”
“I haven’t seen anything but positive things come from (the win over Portland),” said Krikorian. “Practice has been sharp and focused. There has been a good level of concentration. We have a good group of hard working players. Sometimes you can feel when a group is going to letdown. I don’t feel that at all. I think our group is very well prepared for Friday night.”
Florida State returns to action in Tempe, AZ when they complete the Heather Farr Kicks Against Breast Cancer Tournament versus Loyola (MD). The game will be played Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. ET. Game Tracker will be available for the game at Seminoles.com.