Nov. 9, 2003
Complete ACC Championship Notes PDF Format
GAME LIVE ON SUNSHINE NETWORK AT 1:30 PM
By Elliott Finebloom
and Jez Ratliff
Nov. 8, 2003
Cary, NC - Since head coach Patrick Baker took over the Seminole soccer program in 1995 he has overseen more than 200 program firsts and records but none of them will match up to the first the Tribe will try to pull off Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the ACC Championship final. In the 15 years the ACC has played a women's soccer tournament the North Carolina Tar Heels have never been beat. The 14-time tournament champions only failed to capture the title on one occasion and that came in 1998 and that was after a tie versus NC State. Ninth-ranked Florida State (13-6-1, 4-2-1) will take its second shot at that program first Sunday versus the unanimous top ranked and No. 1 seeded Tar Heels (20-0-0, 7-0-0).
"We know based on history that this is an unbelievable challenge for us but it is very exciting," said head coach Patrick Baker. "You just hope someday their run comes to an end. Is that day tomorrow? We will know that answer by 3:30. We are going to give it our best shot."
Florida State's history versus the Heels has not been good whether it be in the ACC Tournament or during the regular season. The Seminoles are just 1-14 all-time against UNC and their meeting Sunday will be a record 16th for the Seminoles with UNC, the most against any opponent.
Florida State is 0-6 in the ACC Tournament versus UNC and has been outscored 32-1 in those contests. After being North Carolina's first round sacrificial lamb the first five meetings, the last time the teams met was in the 2001 championship game and Florida State is actually coming off one of it's best-ever showings against the Tar Heels. Just nine days ago FSU went into Fetzer Field and lost 1-0 on 68th minute goal. The 1-0 loss was especially impressive considering the Heels have outscored ACC teams 40-6 this year and won those matches by an average of almost four goals a game.
"We feel like we prepared well a week ago when we went up to Fetzer Field and gave ourselves a chance," said Baker. "You are not going to out shoot them and you probably aren't going to outplay them. They are going to dictate the run of play. They are going to get the majority of the chances. You just have to stay within striking distance and nobody in the conference has been able to do that. Every ACC team has lost by at least two goals except for us.
"We played them just nine days ago so the video cutups are fresh. The pregame and postgame notes and thoughts are fresh. We feel like if we can take the same game plan and just execute a little better we could be OK but you just never know. We equate it to a storm. Once that ball is kicked off they are coming at you and you have to keep solving pressure after pressure all game long. Hopefully we can solve it a little better than we did at Fetzer."
On of the main things the Tribe will take into the final from their game at Fetzer last week is the play of the defense, which held the nation's No. 1 scoring offense to just one goal. Junior goalkeeper Joy McKenzie was lauded by UNC head coach Anson Dorrance as having an absolutely brilliant performance on the night. The Tribe is defending at a level never seen in the program's nine year history as the back four and McKenzie are shattering one record after another.
"They could easily end up beating us by five or six but I like the defensive mentality of this team. That is going to give you a chance to win," said Baker. "If you can defend well against Carolina, that at least gives you a chance. You then need to get solid goalkeeping, be good in transition, create some quality opportunities and then be fortunate enough to stick a couple of those. That's the formula for success."
For freshman center back Kelly Rowland, this will be her second chance in less than a week to see Lindsay Tarpley, Alyssa Ramsey, Heather O'Reilly and the rest of the cast that makes up the nation's No. 1 squad. A week ago she said she would be in awe of the Heels at first. A week later things are a little different for the Pennsylvania native.
"I think we (the freshmen) will be less nervous playing UNC this time around because we just saw them last week," said Rowland. "We have a little better understanding of them now but that doesn't make them any less talented. I am actually pretty excited for the experience, which includes playing live on TV and in front of thousands of fans"
As good as Carolina is and as big as the task is ahead of them, the Seminoles to a player are excited about playing in the finals of the nation's premiere soccer tournament. Over 4,400 fans showed up for the semifinals on Friday and Sunday's game will also be broadcast live up and down the east coast.
"It is great that we will be on TV all over the east coast and it will be nice for Florida State soccer to get some props. I think we deserve that," said ACC All-Freshman team member India Trotter. "You couldn't ask for more than doing that against the best team in the country. Playing North Carolina in the final is what it is all about."
With Florida State's two wins in the ACC Tournament, the Tribe enters Sunday's final as hot as any team in the nation. Florida State has now gone 12-2-1 in the last 15 games and the team has allowed just nine goals in that span while the Tribe's only two losses have come to No. 1 UNC and No. 8 Virginia. The Seminoles have shutout eight opponents in that span and they have averaged almost three goals a game over that span.
"I think we are peaking at the right time," said Rowland. "Every team wants to be playing its best soccer at this time of year."
"At the start of the season we weren't where we wanted to be but I think this team has responded and shown everyone how good we can be," said McKenzie. "We have been playing so well in every phase of the game and our communication on the field has been great. Now to be in the final with the top team in the country just goes to show we are worthy of being considered in that class."
What made the Seminoles run over the last 15 games even more special was the fact that the started out the year 1-4-0. The Tribe came into the 2003 season as a consensus Top 15 pick for the first time ever but fell out of every poll despite losing four of their first five games to ranked teams including two in the top 10.
"It is very exciting for this team to make it to the ACC Championship game after having a slow start to the season," said Alli Ferreri. "We fought back, went on a long winning streak, won inside of the conference and we really proved that a lot of the talk about this team not being as good as previous years really wasn't true. We then went out and finished second in the ACC and people still thought we didn't deserve that. We feel good about proving we deserved it and now the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds will meet for the championship."
"I am really happy about our success over the last month. I would rather start slow and finish strong like we have than the other way around," said Camie Bybee. "I am so excited about how successful we have been and hopefully that can continue Sunday and through the NCAA Tournament."
Baker and Dorrance are the only two current ACC coaches that have been to more than one ACC Championship final and the Heels and Seminoles are also the only two squads to play for the ACC title two of the last three years. In 2001, FSU beat Maryland 7-2 and advanced past Virginia after 150 minutes of scoreless soccer to face the Heels for the ACC title. The Tribe was out shot by 30 on that night and were just able to hold on to get to the school's first ever final.
"I told our team that I am more excited to play in the championship this year than I was in 2001," said Baker. "We were so fortunate in 2001 to advance past a talented Virginia team that was far superior to us on that night. In fact we took more PK's in that semifinal than we did shots in the entire 150 minute game.
"The difference this year is that we came in as the No. 2 seed and I honestly feel like we are the second-best team in the conference and we wanted to back that up in the ACC tournament. We proved we deserved to be here because there was nothing lucky or fortuitous in either of our tournament wins this time around. We are as good as we have ever been. We are excited as we have ever been. That doesn't mean we don't respect Anson (Dorrance) and his staff. Our coaches and players have the utmost respect from everyone involved in their program."
After Sunday's ACC Championship final, the Tribe will gather back in Tallahassee Monday at 4:00 p.m. to find out if they will be named a host site for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The selection show will be broadcast on ESPN News and the Seminoles are expected to make their fourth straight appearance in the tournament.
For more information on the 2003 ACC Championships final and the Seminole soccer team, please log on to www.seminoles.com, the official athletic department website for Florida State University.