Aug. 16, 2004
Orange Beach, AL – The Seminole soccer team began its preseason Sunday afternoon in Orange Beach, AL versus Conference USA’s preseason favorite UAB. The two teams, both among the favorites to compete for their respective conference titles, played three 30-minute segments and ended the scrimmage in a 1-1 draw. Toby Ranck scored the only FSU goal just 1:47 in to the match.
“Its fantastic that we got to play a quality team like UAB so early in the preseason,” said FSU head coach Patrick Baker. “They were the regular season conference champions in Conference USA and this was a great opponent for us today. We learned a great deal about our individual players today and we learned a great deal about all our groups from the forwards to the keepers. We didn’t have some players but on the day I think the result was fair. The best thing is we have video footage and we can break it down and try to make things better for Tennessee Friday. We will benefit from this game today and I was very encouraged at times.”
“I think today was a good starting point for everybody,” said senior Camie Bybee. “We can take what happened today and learn from it. We’ll see where we need to improve and work hard on those areas during two-a-days this week. Even though we have a large group of returners, it will still take some time to regain our continuity.”
Florida State, which was playing without three projected starters, used a mix of starters, veterans and freshman as Baker worked with different combinations and systems throughout the three segments. Freshman Melissa Samokyshin had a good day playing all 90 minutes in three different positions on the FSU backline. She was the only player to play all three full segments. Camie Bybee also stood out to the coaching staff as most of the best stretches for FSU seemed to flow through Bybee in the central midfield. Sophomore Colette Swensen also played a majority of minutes as she started the match and was solid all afternoon for FSU defensively.
“It was a great opportunity for me getting to start and play a lot of minutes,” said Swensen. “It felt good to be able to contribute and try to help the squad. Overall we did pretty good in the back considering we played without some starters and kept switching the grouping.”
Baker used almost his full compliment of freshmen as seven saw playing time during the scrimmage. Goalkepper Jessica Vaccaro didn’t see any action as upperclassmen Joy McKenzie and Ali Mims got all the action. The only other freshman that did not play was Libby Gianeskis who was having one of the best camps of any newcomer. A slight injury kept her sidelined Sunday.
“Playing at this level was really different, mainly the speed of play,” said freshman Sage Sizemore. “It was exciting. I liked it. It was difficult since we have really only been together as a group for four days and have only finalized the team yesterday. The seniors helped us a lot and that was really appreciated.”
The first 30-minute segment got off to a great start for FSU as a reconfigured midfield made an early impact. Ranck made a long run down the far side. The sophomore, who is vying to help replace Amber Tollefson, played a great square ball across the top of the 18. It was dummied and slid through to Leah Gallegos but the preseason All-American was surrounded just as she got ready to pull the trigger.
Although the Seminoles’ first attack was thwarted, the Tribe did get on the board just 1:47 in. The set piece goal seemed familiar to anyone who watched the Tribe play in 2003 as Kelly Rowland’s long throw-in was the catalyst for the score. The returning freshman All-American’s throw sailed all the way through the box and was flicked on to the back post by Bybee. Julia Schnugg pressured the UAB defense allowing the ball to go right to Ranck at the back post. The sophomore just re-directed the ball past the Blazer keeper and inside the post.
“Kelly had the throw-in and as usual she her long throw-ins put us in a position to score,” said Ranck. “Camie flicked it on to the back post. Julia was pressuring the defender and that allowed the ball to roll through and it was on a plate for me. It felt good to get that early goal because it felt like it took some of the pressure off the team.”
The Seminoles had another quality opportunity when a couple sophomores hooked up. Freshman All-American India Trotter sent a long ball over the top of the Blazer defense and out wide to a streaking Schnugg. Her cross to Leah Gallegos was just cleared away before the Los Angeles native could pull the trigger.
“Based on the players we had available today, we played the 11 players that we felt gave us the best chance to win in that first segment,” said Baker. “We scored a good goal early off a set piece. After that I don’t know we had that many great chances. The action was going back and forth. There were some good spells of play. It took us some time to sort out their five in the midfield versus our four but once we came to terms with how we wanted to play against that system we did a little bit better.”
The second 30 minute segment saw a whole different Seminole team take the field as six freshmen came on and only three starters from the 2003 season were on the pitch including goalkeeper Joy McKenzie in the net. Most of the team on the field had never played with one another and that showed early on as a miscommunication led to a defensive breakdown and in turn the UAB equalizer just under six minutes in.
One of the Seminole starters that was on the field was center back and All-American Katie Beal. The senior, who was deadly on set piece free kicks in 2003, looked just as dangerous at the start of 2004. Her free kick from about 40 yards out sailed to the back post and right on to the head of fellow senior Bybee. Her shot was knocked just wide of the post.
The Blazers had a chance to take the lead in the second segment as well when a long strike was driven in at goalkeeper McKenzie. The senior made a great stab at the shot and knocked it over the cross bar.
“We started six freshmen in that second segment and they got introduced to college soccer right away,” said Baker. “It was great to see them. They got invaluable minutes with the game in the balance. I think it was a little bit of an adjustment for the whole group. When UAB equalized I think individuals and the collective group started to step it up a little bit. Katie Beal brought the young players together and I felt like she probably instilled some things and we came out and picked it up. When you play that many freshmen there will be inconsistencies but it was great they got those minutes.”
In the final segment many of the Seminoles’ starters returned to the field but there was still a healthy mix of freshmen as Baker continued to place different combinations out on the field in game situations. The reinsertion of many veterans seemed to work right off the bat as the Tribe dominated play for the first five minutes.
The first real scoring opportunity for FSU came off a short corner. Schnugg played the ball in to the feet of Gallegos. The junior beat one player and was in on new UAB keeper Julie McFarlane. The Herman MAC watch list candidate fired a low shot near post that beat the keeper but caught the iron and bounced out.
Gallegos was involved in one of the prettiest attacks of the day for FSU. The junior back heeled a pass to Bybee who first timed a pass to Schnugg. The sophomore sprung Trotter free with a one-touch pass of her own but the sequence resulted in a corner.
“The third segment was more of a mixture between young and old,” said Baker. “We approached it like an NFL preseason game. The first 30 minutes you keep your group out there and just see what they can do. After that we mixed and matched. With our numbers we didn’t have a whole lot of other options. We were who we were today and we couldn’t worry about who we didn’t have.”
One of the best moments of the day was Ali Mims entry into the game for the final 30. The redshirt sophomore, who has spent the last two years rehabbing from a broken leg suffered in the 2002 preseason, was tested in her return to the pitch. Another long strike from UAB forced Mims into making a big save and preserving the tie.
“It was a great feeling to get back out on the field with my teammates,” said Mims. “It is a great reward to work so hard during the preseason as a group and then be able to be a part of it. It was great to once again be a part of the rotation.”
The Seminoles move into two-a-days this week as they begin to shift their focus to the start of the season, which is less than two weeks away. Before they open the 2004 campaign, FSU will play one more preseason contest this Friday, August 20 versus Sweet 16 participant Tennessee. The Lady Vols will be in Tallahassee for the one and only home game of the 2004 preseason and kick-off is set for 7:00 p.m. There is never any charge for preseason or regular season matches at the Seminole Soccer Complex.