Aug. 27, 2004
Florida State enters 2004 a consensus top seven pick in the preseason polls and even cracked two preseason top fives for the first time in school history. The Seminoles have never entered a season a consensus top 10 pick until this year and the highest FSU had ever been ranked in a preseason poll was 10th by Soccer Buzz in 2002. The No. 5 ranking from Soccer America is FSU’s highest ever from the magazine as the team finished sixth in the magazine’s final poll in 2003, which was released before the NCAA Tournament. The No. 5 ranking from Soccer Buzz ties the team’s highest ranking ever from the Internet magazine, which FSU received after its College Cup appearance in 2003. The Tribe finished 2003 fourth in the NSCAA poll and opened 2004 No. 7 and in Soccer Times’ poll FSU finished fifth last season and will start out the 2004 sixth. Regionally, FSU is only behind national champion North Carolina. This has become a familiar seat for the Tribe. The Seminoles finished second to UNC in the ACC regular season and the ACC Tournament and just behind the Heels at the College Cup. Head coach Patrick Baker is never aiming to be second at anything but finishing second to North Carolina is an amazing feat for a program that wasn’t even ranked in a top 25 poll five years ago.
It is safe to say that expectations for the 2004 Florida State soccer team are as high as ever. With 10 starters returning from the team that took on Connecticut in the national semifinals last year, FSU was tabbed second in the preseason ACC soccer coaches’ poll. This is the highest preseason ranking ever for Florida State from the coaches and it comes on the heels of FSU’s appearance in the College Cup and the 2003 ACC Championship finals. Florida State was tabbed third in the 2003 coaches’ poll but exceeded those expectations by not only finishing second in the regular season standings but also playing for the conference championship in the ACC Tournament finals. It was the second time in three years that the Tribe played for the conference crown. Since Baker took over the program in 1999 he has continually strived to improve FSU’s standing within the nation’s top soccer conference. After never finishing above .500 in the program’s first five seasons, the team has finished at .500 or above for three straight years. Last season Baker’s Seminoles had their best conference season in school history. The Tribe posted a 4-2-1 record while allowing only five goals in ACC play. The Seminoles shutout four straight ACC opponents for the first time in school history and went over 532 minutes without allowing a goal to an ACC foe. Both of the Tribe’s losses came on the road and both were by just one goal. The Seminoles fell to eventual National Champion North Carolina 1-0 and at Virginia 3-2.
RIGHT WHERE SHE BELONGS
It didn’t take long for consensus All-American Leah Gallegos to set her first record of the 2004 season and it came before she even stepped on the practice field. The junior was named to the MAC Herman Trophy watch and Gallegos is the first Seminole to ever be named to the prestigious list. A consensus All-American in 2003, Gallegos is the first Seminole player in school history to garner first team All-American honors (Soccer Buzz). Gallegos had a record-breaking season in 2003 as she led Florida State to its first College Cup. The Los Angeles native established new marks for goals (18), game-winning goals (7), multi-goal games in a season (5), shots (109) and shots on goal (60). Her 39 points were the second-most ever recorded by a Seminole player in a single season and 40% of Gallegos’ 25 career goals have been game-winners. Last year she tied an FSU record with four goals in a game and eight points in a contest versus FAU. Gallegos produced throughout the season as she recorded points in 12 of FSU’s 26 games and six of the games came against NCAA Tournament teams. In just two years at FSU Gallegos has scored more goals in her first two seasons than any player in FSU history and of the players who have more than one year at FSU, no player has averaged more points per game than Gallegos (1.25/game). Entering her third season, Gallegos is already second all-time in career game-winning goals (10) and is tied for first in career multi-goal games (6). She is also second all-time for shots, third all-time for goals and fourth all-time for points.
CAN SHE DO IT AGAIN?
In 2003 Seminole striker Leah Gallegos became the first ever first team All-American and consensus All-American in school history. In 2004 she is already on the watch list for the MAC Herman Trophy and she was also named one of just 12 preseason All-Americans by Soccer Buzz. This is the first preseason All-American honor for Gallegos and the first ever received by a Seminole soccer player. A consensus All-American in 2003, Gallegos is the first Seminole player in school history to garner first team All-American honors when she was named one of the top forwards in the nation by Soccer Buzz last year. She was named FSU’s first CSTV All-American (2nd Team) and first Soccer Times All-American (2nd Team) as well. Gallegos was also the first Florida State player that ever received an All-American honor from the NCSAA (3rd Team) and the first Seminole to ever be named first team all-region by the coaches association. Gallegos also earned first team all-region honors from Soccer Buzz and last year she became just the third Seminole in school history to be named All-ACC first team.
Florida State has reached unprecedented success under head coach Patrick Baker. The Seminole coach has led the team to three Sweet 16’s, two ACC Championship finals and a College Cup. That doesn’t mean there aren’t areas where he would like to see improvement and one of those areas is getting out to a good start. The Seminoles are 2-2-1 under Baker in his five years in the first game of the season and 1-1 when the squad opens with a top 25 team. Despite the College Cup run in 2003, that team started the year 1-4 and Baker obviously hopes to get out to a better start in ’04 with No. 14 Arizona State, NCAA tournament team USC and ACC rival Miami the first three games of the year. Then add an FAU team that was one win away from the postseason and No. 6 Florida the next week, the early part of the schedule is challenging. Opening at home on a Friday night hopefully will help the Tribe get off to that good start they are looking for (see note below).
Since Patrick Baker took over the Seminole soccer program in 1999, FSU has lost just one home game on a Friday night (16-1-2) and is 5-1-0 versus ranked opponents on a Friday night at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The Seminoles are also 22-2-3 since 1999 at home under the lights and FSU is 9-2-0 at night against ranked teams at home. In his five seasons at FSU, Baker has recorded wins under the lights in Tallahassee versus No. 6 UF (2000), No. 7 Texas A&M (2000), No. 20 Wake Forest (2000), No. 21 Maryland (2001), No. 17 Clemson (2002) and No. 21 Florida (2002). Last season FSU improved that total with big Friday night wins over No. 14 Maryland (2003), No. 12 Duke (2003) and Miami. Then capped the home season off with a 5-0 Friday night win over Dartmouth in the NCAA Tournament.
A big crowd is expected for the home opener and crowds of 1000 or more are becoming more common for a Florida State team that has been to four straight NCAA Tournaments, three Sweet 16s and a College Cup. One of the reasons fans keep coming back is that head coach Patrick Baker and the Seminoles make sure they leave happy. Every time FSU has played at home in front of 1,000 or more fans on a Friday night the Seminoles have won. With the win over Dartmouth in the NCAA Tournament, FSU moved to 8-0-0 all-time when 1,000 fans show up on Friday night. In those seven games, the only shutouts have come in the last three matches (Duke, NC State and Dartmouth).
Although he doesn’t have a lot of experience against the conference, head coach Patrick Baker has done pretty well in his five years at FSU when playing Pac-10 squads. The FSU head coach is 3-1-1 versus Pac-10 teams. He is 2-0 versus Oregon, 1-0-1 versus Oregon State and his only loss came to Sunday’s opponent (USC) last season on opening weekend. When Pac-10 teams travel to Tallahassee, they haven’t shown the effects of jet lag posting a 1-1-1 record. Florida State does have a pretty good record when playing two Pac-10 teams the same weekend. The Tribe is 3-0-1 when facing Pac-10 teams a day apart. The Seminoles have never played Arizona State but they are familiar with ASU head coach Ray Leone. The former Clemson coach returns to Tallahassee where he was 2-1 when coaching the Tigers.
One of the reasons fans around Tallahassee are so excited about the Seminole soccer team is that 10 starters from the team that faced UConn in the College Cup are back this season. Part of the reason FSU soccer has been so successful has been because of hat stability, which stems from coach Baker’s balance of mixing young players and veterans. In the last four seasons Baker has returned eight starters twice, nine starters once and 10 this year. It is no wonder those four teams went to three Sweet 16’s and a College Cup. This year’s lone position battle seems to be the wide midfielder spot vacated by senior team captain Amber Tollefson’s graduation. A pair of sophomores, Rachel McDowell and Toby Ranck, battled it out during camp but Baker has not named a starter for Friday night as of yet.
While you never want to read too much into preseason, the Tribe’s offensive showing versus preseason No. 8 Tennessee was pretty special. The three second half goals showed just what the Seminole offense can do. In the two preseason scrimmages, six different Seminole players recorded a point. Considering the Tribe scored four goals in the two games, a lot of people were involved in making those goals happen. With a target on her back, All-American Leah Gallegos will need the help as FSU got a preview of what the season will be like when two and three UT defenders were all over Gallegos every time she touched the ball. That didn’t stop the LA native from putting all four of her shots on frame and recording a goal versus the Lady Vols.
When the Seminoles take the field Friday night they will not only be looking to beat a top 15 Arizona State squad but they could record the 100th victory in program history as well. The Seminoles’ win over Florida in the Elite Eight last season was the 99th in school history. Head coach Patrick Baker is responsible for 68 of those wins in his five years in Tallahassee. That is more than double the amount of wins the program recorded in the first five years of school history. Since coming to Tallahassee, Baker has overseen the 50th win in program history while also establishing personal milestones with the 100th and 150th wins of his career.
The 2003 Seminole offense was the best in the history of the school. The team set records for points, points per game and goals last year. The 2004 group could be even better. For the first time in school history, the Tribe enters a season with three of the top five career goal scorers on the roster. All four of FSU’s top point producers are back this year and three players with 50 or more career points are on the 2004 roster and that is also the first time that has ever happened. Up top, Leah Gallegos is the single season record holder for goals and her partner, sophomore Julia Schnugg, had the second-most assists ever recorded by a player in a season last year. The midfield has an All-American (India Trotter) and two, four-year starters (Jez Ratliff and Camie Bybee) who have combined for 114 points in their careers.