Nov. 13, 2005
Gainesville, FL – It will be a little surreal. When FSU takes the field Sunday at 1:00 p.m. they will be playing for the right to go to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament on their biggest rival’s pitch versus a team they have never faced in program history. It will be a challenge for the seventh-ranked and second-seeded Seminoles (18-3-0) facing-off with a University of Illinois (12-6-3) team they will have to figure out once the opening whistle blows in front of what could be a small crowd.
“I don’t think the atmosphere in the stadium will matter what will matter is the atmosphere in the locker room,” said sophomore midfielder Libby Gianeskis. “When I walked on the field the other day (versus FAU) it didn’t matter to me where we were playing the game. I just went out with the attitude we needed to play at our best if we wanted to get a win. That is the attitude we will carry with us tomorrow.
“I like not knowing too much about an opponent. You can go out there without a lot of expectations and just play the way you are capable of. It is exciting and I actually prefer it. You get to learn the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses as the game unfolds.
While FSU may not know much about the Fighting Illini, what the Seminoles do know is that Illinois has scored at least one goal in 18 of their last 19 games and they are coming off a trip to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2004. They upset the 18th-ranked University of Florida Friday night on their own field in double overtime, which raised the Illini’s record to 3-0-3 in overtime games in 2005.
“Illinois plays soccer the same way we do,” said All-America candidate India Trotter. “That makes it a great match-up. It should be a very attractive game for fans to watch.”
Illinois’ 1-0 win over the Gators was the ninth shutout of the year for UI. Four of the team’s clean sheets have come against schools invited to the 2005 NCAA Tournament including Stanford, Milwaukee-Wisconsin and Michigan State who all advanced to the second round of the tournament Friday.
“We are going to have to be very good offensively against Illinois,” said Trotter. “Putting the opponent’s defense under pressure is a key in any match. We would like to get on the board early and that’s no different than any other game. It is always a big advantage if you are able to jump in front of an opponent.
“As the game progresses we will need to find their weaknesses, which we didn’t see much of when we watched them play Florida. Getting our wide players involved and getting balls in behind their defense will be important for us if we want to have success.”
Defensively the Seminoles will be tested as well. The squad increased its school record shutout total to 11 with a 3-0 blanking of FAU in the first round Friday. The clean sheet lowered the team’s GAA to 0.70, which is 0.32 lower than the school record set in 2004. That team allowed just 21 goals, the fewest in school history. This year’s squad will some into Sunday’s match having allowed just 15 so far.
“Organization in the back is going to be a key versus Illinois,” said All-ACC freshman defender Sarah Wagenfuhr. “We know how talented they are up top. I think it will be a big test for us. We need to stay focused and if we do we’ll have a chance.”
This is the fifth time in six trips to the NCAA Tournament that the Seminoles have advanced to the second round. The Seminoles are 3-1 all-time in second round games. The only time FSU lost a second round game was in 2001 when FSU lost 1-0 at Clemson. All three of FSU’s second round wins have come in the state of Florida with two coming in Tallahassee and one in Gainesville. All three have also been by identical 2-1 scores and all three came against SEC opponents.
“I don’t think it is a matter of entering Sunday’s game with confidence from what we have done in the past with us it is more about being prepared,” said Trotter. “If we play the way we are capable of we’ll have a great chance to advance.”
Versus Florida Atlantic Friday FSU started eight players who had never started an NCAA Tournament match. The inexperience showed throughout the first half as the Seminoles struggled to link up and generate much offense. They scored the eventual game-winner in the 44th minute and didn’t get on the board again until the 86th minute of the match.
“It was exciting to get my first taste of NCAA Tournament action,” said Wagenfuhr. “I am excited for Sunday though and to get another taste of the postseason. I think all the first year players will be a little more comfortable out there. We will need to be if we want to get a result against a talented Illinois team.”
Fans will be able to follow Florida State’s second round match via a free Internet audio broadcast, which will be available at www.seminoles.com. Campo will bring you the call beginning at 1:00 p.m. Live stats will also be available on Game Tracker exclusively at the official athletic site for Florida State University. Tickets for the match are available through the University of Florida.