March 30, 2001
The 12th-ranked Florida State soccer team is right in the middle of its 2001 spring season and is gearing up for two more competition dates that will feature both teams that played in the NCAA women’s soccer championship game. The Seminoles are 4-2 this spring despite playing without a true goalkeeper but that means very little to head coach Patrick Baker. Baker is looking at a lot of things this spring but wins and losses are not one of them.
“The spring is not about wins and losses at all,” said Baker. “We are very fortunate in that the first game we beat the U-17 Region III ODP team 2-0 but based on level of play I was disappointed. We were nowhere near where we needed to be. People could of looked at us in that game and found it very difficult to believe we were an NCAA tournament team last year.”
After opening the spring schedule with that 2-0 win over the U-17 Region III ODP team, Florida State then fell to the U-16 Region III ODP team by a count of 1-0. FSU followed those games by playing two 50-minute matches against the University of South Florida and Jacksonville University. The Seminoles downed USF 3-0 and then lost 1-0 to JU who Florida State defeated 4-1 in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament.
The coaching staff is continually trying to develop the right mix of starters after losing six seniors from last year’s squad including three starters. Midfielder Rachael Watkin, defender Ashley Halter and goalkeeper Sarah Crawford combined for 68 starts last season and April Murphy and Sarah Deacon appeared in 46 matches. Crawford and Watkin were named to the All-ACC Tournament team and were second team All-Southeast selections by SoccerBuzz.
“I was excited to finally get the spring going because we kind of have a whole new team now,” said Baker. “The complexion of our team has changed so much with the loss of our six seniors. Since coming to Florida State, they have always been part of our program. It was a little different stepping out there the first day not seeing some of those familiar faces.”
Defensively, the Seminoles are in good shape. FSU returns three of its four starters from last season’s squad. Sophomore Meredith Jones, sophomore Ashlee Fontes and freshman Kristin Boyce return from a defense that was easily the best group in the history of the program. The Seminoles defense allowed four fewer goals in 2000 than they did during the previous record-setting season of 1996 despite the fact that FSU played four more games than the ’96 squad. Seven of the record 31 goals allowed came in those four games in the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament and came against Jacksonville, Florida, Clemson and North Carolina. Despite this unit’s success, Baker has experimented with Jones in the midfield this spring.
“Defending is still something we will have to rely upon and use as a trademark if we want to continue to be successful,” said Baker. “We have a little bit of consistency in our defense with three returning starters but we have experimented using Jones in the midfield a little bit this spring even though it’s a position she is not fully familiar with. We have been able to get a look at what she can do at both positions.”
One of the biggest challenges this spring is finding a player to play in the central midfield with junior Marte vik Edvardsen. That is no small task considering that player would have to fill a void left by one of the greatest players to ever wear an FSU uniform, Rachael Watkin. Watkin appeared in 83 games for the Seminoles and started every one of those matches. After making the transition from sweeper during her senior season, Watkin scored five goals and posted four assists from her spot in the Seminole midfield. Florida State should be in good shape wide as freshmen Summer Corum and Amber Tollefson return after combining for 42 starts, seven goals and seven assists last season.
“We have seen some great stuff wide from Tollefson and Corum who started there last season but we have also seen some good things from Janet Burke and Katie Talley who has comeback and responded very well from injury,” said Baker. “Marisha Crowe has also done an absolutely fantastic job this spring.”
Baker has a problem up front but it is one every coach loves to have. The Seminoles have four forwards who could play and be successful immediately. Freshman Emma Breland scored 12 goals, recorded seven assists, tallied 31 total points, set 10 program firsts and broke or tied seven individual FSU records last season. Sophomore Cindy Schofield started 19 games, scored five goals and tied Breland for the record for most assists by a Seminole in a single season with seven. Maren vik Edvardsen appeared in 23 games and scored five goals and assisted on four others. She is the most productive player in the history of the program with 22 career goals and 52 career points. Burke can also play upfront for the Seminoles and she appeared in 23 games last season and assisted on three goals.
“Up front we have the luxury of four players in Burke, Breland, vik Edvardsen and Schofield who are all capable,” said Baker. “We have so much talent up front that we have even experimented with playing three forwards up top.”
Goalkeeper is one area that Florida State needs immediate help due to the graduation of senior Crawford. The Lilburn, GA native played every minute of every game for FSU last season but Baker believes that help is on its way with the three keepers who are members of the 2001 recruiting class. Maryland’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Kerry York, is the leading candidate to replace Crawford but the competition will be wide open between York, Ali Mimms and Joy McKenzie when fall arrives.
“With the loss of Sarah Crawford, our only goalkeeper, due to graduation we are having to play this spring without a goalkeeper,” said Baker. “That is a bit tough and we have been rotating field players back there but if someone had told me we would of allowed just two goals with field players in net, I wouldn’t have been too disappointed.”
Baker has been able to see a lot of players in game action this spring who didn’t get as much time as he would of liked last season and, in his eyes, that is one of the most important aspects of spring competition.
“Our objective is to have the best group of players out on the field by the end of spring and then whatever you can add from your recruiting class entering in the fall is just icing on the cake,” said Baker. “This is a great opportunity for us to see players who didn’t get a lot of exposure in the fall and see some other players at different positions. Players have the opportunity in the spring to step up and work their way into a starting spot.”
With only two competition dates left on the 2001 spring schedule, Florida State will face its toughest competition of the season when it heads to the All-ACC Spring Jamboree. FSU travels to Wake Forest this weekend where they will face the 23rd-ranked Demon Deacons and two-time defending national champion North Carolina.
“Our final two competition dates are going to be very tough,” said Baker. “First, we go to play in the Wake Forest Invitational, which is an All-ACC Jamboree, and we open up with North Carolina and follow up with Wake Forest. Those are two of the top three teams in our conference and that will be a good test for us and we are excited for the challenge. We believe that if we continue to play the best teams we will become one of the best teams and playing UNC right off the bat is a great draw for us.”
The Seminoles close their spring schedule on the west coast where they face UCLA and USC April 7. The Trojans ended the season ranked No. 21 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament after posting a 14-6-2 record in one of the top soccer conferences in the country. The 2nd-ranked Bruins advanced to the championship game of the 2000 NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships where they lost to UNC 2-1.
“UCLA was up a goal on North Carolina in the NCAA championship game so that will be a tremendous game for us,” said Baker. “We are just so excited about the experience. Last year we went out and played Santa Clara and Cal-Berkley and those are the types of teams you read about in the newspaper and Soccer America but you never really know what to expect until you play them. Our administration has been so supportive in allowing us to expand this program and go out and play the best teams in the nation and UCLA and USC are just two more teams added to the list of great teams we will have played this spring.”
Baker said his team needs to feel very confident about where they are right now and he thinks they are getting closer and closer to that each and every day. The coaching staff has put everybody through their paces and now they start to look for the right mesh of players in the right positions.
“No matter what happens with the freshman class in the sense of starting spots, we will be a team that plays 18 or 19 players and we expect no drop-off in our level of play when players come off of the bench,” said Baker. “We could even see our play enhanced with certain combinations. We are excited that we have 17 or 18 players training here with almost no difference between the level of play from starters and back-ups. You would really have to struggle to find a way to separate a starter from a non-starter on this team right now.”