Nov. 1, 2002
Tallahassee, FL –
The 15th-ranked Seminole soccer team should have no problem motivating themselves for Saturday night’s regular season finale versus 25th-ranked Virginia (10-5-2, 3-3-0). With a win, Florida State (11-4-3, 3-2-1) will lock up second place in the ACC, which would be the program’s highest-ever finish. The Seminoles would finish the regular season with a winning percentage above .700 for the first time ever, they would set the record for the fewest losses by an FSU soccer team and would set the mark for the most conference wins ever in a single season. On top of that, FSU will be honoring five seniors in front of a crowd that could push the Seminoles over the 10,000-fan mark for the first time in program history. No pressure.
“It is hard to believe it’s the first weekend in November already. It seems like just the other day we were starting out the 2002 season,” said head coach Patrick Baker. “We are excited to be in the position we always talk about. At this time of year we always just want to put ourselves in a position in which we have a chance to be successful. That means a lot of different things. For us over the last two years that means to put ourselves in a good position for the ACC Tournament and put ourselves in a good situation to be selected for the NCAA Tournament. From those two standpoints, our girls deserve a lot of credit for once again putting us in that position this late in the season.”
Florida State is heating up at the right time of the year as they have won four straight matches and back-to-back conference road games for the first time in program history. A win over Virginia would equal the program’s all-time winning streak (five games) and equal the record for consecutive wins in conference games (three). It would also give the Seminoles a boost of confidence heading into next week’s ACC Tournament, which will be held in Tallahassee, FL for the first time in conference history.
“Before we won these last four games, we played three very good teams in Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina,” said Baker. “We tied one of those games. We lost to Wake who was a Top 10 team at the time with about 1:30 left in the second overtime and Carolina is arguably the best team in the country. We played well, did some great things but didn’t have a result on the scoreboard to savor.
“I think a lot of people on the outside looking in were wondering where we were at. We used a lot of that to our advantage. We got re-focused. We got a little bit re-committed and then we adjusted the line-up a little bit. Now we have been able to get some results down the stretch, which is nice. Sometimes we are playing very good soccer and sometimes not so much but I think we are playing better for a majority of the game than we were in mid to late September, which is what you hope for.”
Virginia comes into Saturday night’s game with three straight wins in the conference after a surprising 0-3-0 start. The Cavaliers were picked to finish second overall in the ACC coach’s preseason poll and still have a chance to lock-up the third seed with a win over FSU. The Tribe has never beaten Virginia in nine opportunities but the last time the two teams faced, FSU advanced past the Cavs in the ACC semi-finals after playing 150-minutes of scoreless soccer.
“Last year we advanced past them in a shootout but they dominated the game,” said Meredith Jones. “They took a ridiculous number of shots on us but I don’t think that is a bad thing. We are going to play really hard because we know how good this Virginia team is. They have always been a good team but we have played well against them despite not getting a win. We always play them competitively and they are always close games.”
In the last seven meetings between Florida State and Virginia, the Cavs have won by an average on just one goal per game and in five of FSU’s eight losses to Virginia, the Cavaliers have either tied or won the game with less than 10:00 on the clock. On three occasions the goal came with under two minutes remaining in the match.
During the regular season in 2001, FSU held a 2-1 lead over the Cavs in Charlottesville before Virginia evened the match with just over 20:00 remaining. The Cavaliers then got the game-winner with less than two minutes left in regulation. In 2000, FSU and UVA were tied at 0-0 before the Cavaliers scored another 89th minute goal to record a 1-0 win. The meeting between the two schools in 1999 was another tough one for the Tribe. Once again the game was scoreless going into the final 10:00 before UVA scored to win 1-0. The regular season meeting in 1998 might have been the most heartbreaking of all the losses FSU has suffered at the hands of Virginia. The Garnet and Gold took a 3-2 lead into the 89th minute before UVA once again tied the match and won the game just six minutes in to OT. In 1997 Virginia used another 80th minute goal to beat Florida State. With the game tied 1-1, UVA got the game-winner in the 85th minute of the game.
“In 1999, we went up on a Friday night and played very well. We were organized and we defended well but they got a goal with under 10:00 remaining. I think back then part of that was our mentality and not knowing how to win close games. In 2000, it was just an awesome game here. We had a chance with about three minutes and didn’t stick it and they stuck their chance with just over 1:00 on the clock. Last year we were up 2-1 in Charlottesville with just 20:00 left. They tied it up and then got the game-winner on a crazy play at the end of the game.
“I don’t know what it is. If I knew what it was, I would have addressed it and taken care of the problem. I think our team did respond well when we played them in the ACC semi-finals last season. They were on fire that night. They were in a different class but we were well organized, we defended well and we created a few quality chances. That was all we could muster on the day but we did find a way to advance. Even though it went down as a tie, it allowed us to advance to the conference championship final.”
Before FSU even steps out to face the nation’s 25th-ranked team, they will have to deal with the emotions of saying goodbye to five seniors, four of whom are starters. The Class of 2002 has been a part of one of the greatest turn-arounds in Seminole athletics. The 2002 senior class has been to two NCAA Tournaments, an ACC Championship final, recorded the most conference wins in school history and will leave the program with the best winning percentage of any senior class (.610). No senior class has ever won more games and this group takes the field Saturday night having lost just eight home games in their four years at FSU. They are the first Seminole seniors to leave FSU with a winning record against Florida, Maryland and NC State and they have compiled an amazing 21-3-0 record versus teams from the state of Florida. Since their arrival in 1999, they have defeated 12 ranked opponents and helped to establish almost 200 records and program firsts in four seasons. They will take the field Saturday night knowing that they will have at least one more home game next Thursday in the ACC Championship quarterfinals.
“A couple of people have told me that I will be too caught up and focused on the game that it won’t be too big of a problem,” said senior captain Jenny Garcia. “You can’t help but think about it and realize there are no more regular season games left in you collegiate career. I think we’ll get wrapped up in it for a little bit and there will be a lot of emotions but we’ll be all right.
“It is a big help knowing there is a possibility we could play three more games on this field in the ACC Tournament. To have the conference tournament at your home stadium in your senior year is just so awesome. It is just a great feeling.”
With all the records that could be set on the field Saturday night, the Seminoles are hoping that they set one in the stands. This season a record 8904 fans have come to the Seminole Soccer Complex to see Florida State play. If FSU is able to draw 1,100 fans to the Virginia game, it will mark the first time in team history that 10,000 spectators have watched FSU soccer in a single season. More than 1,000 fans have already come to watch the FSU soccer team on two occasions this year and four of the top five largest crowds in school history have been established over the last three seasons.
“I think we have a great shot against Virginia,” said Jones. “Being that it is senior night, that will give us a lot of motivation and we will rely on a lot of fans coming out because they are always a huge help.”
After facing Virginia, Florida State will host the 2002 ACC Women’s Soccer Championships for the first time in school history. The nation’s premiere conference tournament runs from Thursday, November 7 to Sunday, November 11 and tickets are now available on-line at www.seminoles.com or by calling the Seminole ticket office at 1-888-FSU-NoLE. Florida State students can purchase tickets for the entire tournament at a reduced rate and individual session tickets go on sale the day of the game. Log on to the official website for Florida State Athletics to find out more information on the 2002 ACC Tournament and the FSU soccer team.