Aug. 13, 2004
Tallahassee, FL –
The shortest three-a-days that I can remember in my five years with head coach Patrick Baker came to an end on Friday and it was a week like none before. There were so many reasons this week of three-a-days was unlike any other. The weather was a huge difference. It was so strange to have just one of the nine sessions in typical Florida summer heat. It was weird to have so much rain and the fact that the temperatures were so cool was shocking. The weather forced the team into the turf room Thursday and that was another thing that separated “Training Camp 2004” from all the others. It was just odd being indoors. In the final session of the day, they week’s weather was summed up in just a few hours as it went from warm, to cool and drizzling, to pouring rain to hot, humid and sunny.
All of those differences were really just cosmetic. There was one big difference though that had nothing to do with the weather and it was never more evident than at the end of Friday’s final session. Typical there is a collective wild celebration to mark the end of what some players have called “hell week” but that didn’t happen Friday. The team was tired and hungry and they just walked off the field. It got me thinking. What is different about this team? The difference is that they didn’t come in looking to survive these past three days like their predecessors. They came in with the mindset that three-a-days were just the first step in a journey they hope will lead the program to its first national title. That attitude showed in fitness. There has never been three early morning fitness sessions as good as the three that this group of Seminoles put together. It showed in the training. There was not an instance when the coaching staff had to stop play due to a lack of effort, which has happened in the past. Finally, it showed in the games.
This group didn’t come into this preseason looking to just survive. They looked at these three days as an opportunity to get better. When it comes down to it, it isn’t the returning All-Americans and deep pool of talent that has people in Tallahassee excited about this team, it is the attitude and desire that is the reason 2004 could be magical.
The day began as always at 7:00 a.m. with fitness. The most dreaded of all the fitness is 120’s and the team had to run them on the last day of camp. It could have been a disaster but not with this group. Although it is repetitive, they once again exceeded the levels of 2003 and had a great session. If you know coach Baker, you know how much he values fitness and when he is happy with a fitness session for the third day in a row, you know that means something.
The 9:30 a.m. session was short and sweet. I got hung up at the office so I don’t have any details other than to say it was a good technical session. Coach Baker relayed to me that the girls were tired and worn down but that didn’t stop them from getting everything they needed to get done in an hour and a half. That’s a credit to a group of players who were eight sessions in to three-a-days.
Three-a-days ended up with the system’s game. The team is divided into two seven-sided squads. Each team picks a different system to play for each of the four segments, which run 10 minutes a piece. Jez Ratliff captained the yellow team (penny color) and Katie Beal the green squad. When it was all said and done, the team with the best record would get served dinner by the opposing group and you don’t want to be waiting on Camie Bybee after a long week of three-a-days (she’s not the most gracious winner).
The energy was high and the offense flowing in the first game as the teams waged an epic seesaw battle. Yellow broke on top but every time they scored green answered back. That went on for the whole 10 minutes with the game ending 4-4.
1-0 Janet Burke (Yellow)
1-1 Sarah Rosseau (Green)
2-1 Leah Gallegos (Yellow)
2-2 Toby Ranck (Green)
3-2 India Trotter (Yellow)
3-3 Alli Ferreri (Green)
4-3 Leah Gallegos (Yellow)
4-4 Alli Ferreri
In the second game the yellow team came out on fire racing out to a 4-0 lead. Kelly Rowland, sitting by me on the sidelines, picked Katie Beal’s green squad before the game and was hiding her head in shame for a while. The freshman All-American was gloating just five minutes later as the green team scored six unanswered goals to take a 1-0-1 lead in the four-game series.
1-0 Holly Peltzer (Yellow)
2-0 Leah Gallegos (Yellow)
3-0 Leah Gallegos (Yellow)
4-0 Jez Ratliff (Yellow)
4-1 Julia Schnugg (Green)
4-2 Camie Bybee (Green)
4-3 Julia Schnugg (Green)
4-4 Alli Ferreri (Green)
4-5 Julia Schnugg (Green)
4-6 Alli Ferreri (Green)
As the rain stopped and the sun came out the offense slowly wilted as neither side was able to get on the board. With the green team up 1-0-1, yellow had to win the final game to force a deciding fifth match. Senior captain Jez Ratliff made sure that would happen as she scored an early goal that yellow would never relinquish.
1-0 Jez Ratliff (Yellow)
In the fifth and final game, the rules were set that the teams would play five minutes and if the score was tied, they’d move into golden goal play. The green team was desperate to win in regulation because of Leah “Golden” Gallegos. The junior earned her name with back-to-back golden goals in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in 2003. Few people on the team enjoy winning in practice as much as Camie Bybee and she made sure her team wasn’t waiting tables at the end of the night. Her goal was the only one of the game giving green the series victory.
1-0 Camie Bybee (Green)
Saturday is gear day. The kids finally get their uniforms, practice clothes and gear. Three-a-days are hard on coach Baker as a neatly dressed team is important to him but until he can give out practice gear, the kids are in old high school, club and ODP gear the first three days. Saturday’s practice will be the first one in which everyone will look the same in their new Nike practice gear. Before the training session, the team will head over for photos at the Westcott Building. Everyone will have a headshot taken and then the team photo will be shot. After training, the team will board the bus and head to Orange Beach, AL where they will face Conference USA preseason favorite UAB.
RANDOM NOTES AND QUOTES
Assistant coach Robin Confer pointed out that she wasn’t so happy I mentioned her 0-2 start as a head coach in three-a-days but after she stopped being mad at me she talked about the freshman class. According to Confer, they have gotten better everyday and shown marked improvement each time they have stepped out. She was really encouraged by their progress.
Trust me when I tell you that Leah Gallegos is getting everything she deserves. The junior was named a preseason All-American Friday and if our friend Randy Diggs at Soccer Buzz had been in Tallahassee this week he may of thought about naming her preseason player of the year. Gallegos had a phenomenal camp that didn’t just leave me talking but wowed her teammates. As much as they respect her talents, she never ceases to amaze them.
One freshman that was singled out for her improvement over the week was Melissa Samokishyn. The coaching staff really was impressed with the way she adjusted and raised her level of play all three days. Way to go Mel.
The quotes were a little light tonight, as I wanted to let the girls get home and enjoy the end of three-a-days:
On the differences between her first camp in 2003 and her second camp in 2004
“This year there was a more positive attitude throughout the week. Everyone came in ready to play and a lot more fit than last year. It was a great atmosphere being together and we picked up where we left off in the spring.”
Why was there no celebration at the end of the last practice?
“We know we have business to take care of in just a couple of days. With UAB up ahead we were more focused on what was ahead then celebrating what we had just finished.”
How did you adjust throughout the week?
“The first day the heat and humidity hit me. It was a lot different than Colorado. I had never seen rain like this either so I had to adjust to that as well. After that it was a matter of adapting to the new girls and the way they play. It was hard to adjust at first but it got better as we played with one another more throughout the camp.”
How did the defense look in your opinion?
“I had a lot of different players in front of me this week. It was a good mix of returners and freshmen. In the full squad games and playing our normal formation, the central defenders were usually returners. I thought they did a great job of working with the freshmen on the outsides. The young players, to their credit, were very receptive to our suggestions and they are very coachable. Each day they learned a little more and got a little better. I was encouraged.”
What is it like to play a college team this early in the preseason?
“I was excited because it breaks up the preseason and it is something to look forward to. It is hard to go straight from three-a-days to two-a-days without a break and some game action. The game is a reward for us and I was very happy when I saw we were going to get to play a team as good as UAB this early on.”