Oct. 14, 2003
Clemson, SC - The last time No. 11 Florida State went on the road for an ACC game they had their hearts broken at fourth-ranked Virginia. The Cavaliers scored two goals in the final 5:00 with the final goal coming with just :27 remaining in the game as UVa downed the Tribe 3-2. Since then FSU has won two more games, their sixth and seventh in the last eight, including a 3-0 upset over then-No. 12 Duke. With FSU in Clemson, SC for a meeting with the Tigers tonight at 7:00, will the team have any problem putting that last ACC road game out of their minds?
"I feel we put the Virginia loss behind us the Monday after we watched the video cut-ups," said head coach Patrick Baker. "We played well enough to win on the night, but just didn't close the door when we needed to. Virginia stepped up and made plays when we didn't."
"We feel like we let a road game slip away against a great Virginia squad and you don't get too many opportunities like that," said defender Teresa Rivera. "We want to prove that we can win on the road in the conference but we also know how difficult that is."
The lesson a young Florida State squad took with them from Charlottesville, VA was that in the ACC anything can happen and you can never let up. They seemed to exhibit that in a 3-0 win over Duke last Friday night. In that game FSU took a lead in the 39th-minute but went on to add insurance goals in the 77th and 83rd minutes to make sure there would be no miracle finishes for the Blue Devils.
"We learned from that Virginia loss that you can never let up especially mentally," said freshman forward Julia Schnugg. "You have to keep pushing because the three ACC games I have played in are the toughest games I have ever played in my life. Anything can happen so you have to stay sharp for a full 90:00."
"Our young ladies have responded since that night Charlottesville and it is a credit to their character," said Baker. "We have beat two quality opponents in must win situations and the team seems to be hitting its stride for the stretch run."
Friday's win against Duke was huge for FSU but the game was played in Tallahassee where FSU has posted an 8-7-1 record in ACC games under Baker. Although Florida State is just 4-28-4 all-time in conference road games, the Tribe has won three of those four games since 2000 and the Seminoles also have recorded one of those four wins at Riggs Field. The Tribe's last trip to Clemson, SC for a regular season game resulted in a 3-2 FSU victory.
"Since I have been here we have had some success versus Clemson in the regular season," said midfielder Jez Ratliff. "We have a lot of respect for them but we aren't afraid to go on the road in the conference and we believe in ourselves. We are getting better every game and if we could get a win tonight it would be another huge step for us."
With two wins in the last three meetings with Clemson, FSU is well aware that the Tigers will be motivated to stop them from winning back-to-back regular games on their own pitch. But the Seminoles come in to today's game with some extra motivation of their own. Clemson ended FSU's season in 2000 and 2001 in NCAA Tournament games played at Riggs Field. The 2000 loss was in the Sweet 16 and the 2001 came in the round of 32.
"The losses to Clemson in the NCAA Tournament did have an affect on us in the past because we were coming off losses to them in the regular season as well. I don't think that will be the case this year," said Ratliff. "The last two times we faced them in the regular season we won and so many of our current players weren't here to experience those losses in the NCAA's. Every ACC game is a huge game and a rivalry type game. I think the rivalry with Clemson does have a lot to do with them ending our season two of the last three years."
"Clemson is very good and one of the better teams in the country," said Baker. "Todd (Bramble) is an excellent coach and he will have his team ready for tonight's game. We need to continue to defend well and capitalize on the scoring chances we create. It should be another great night in the ACC."
The Tribe is coming into tonight's match extremely hot winning seven of their last eight. Included in that run are wins over two ACC squads and three teams that were ranked at the time of the game. Florida State has shutout three of its last four opponents and scored three goals in three of those games as well.
"The loss to Virginia was unfortunate. If we play a little better in the last five minutes we are 8-0 in our last eight games," said Ratliff. "Despite that loss, we have a confidence right now that we didn't have earlier in the season."
"I think there is a familiarity with one another on the field now," said Schnugg. "We have been able to gain a better understanding of how our teammates play, what each players strengths are and most importantly how to bring out the best in each other. That has been the biggest difference in the run. We are playing better in every phase of the game. We are getting shutouts now. We are scoring more goals. You just feel the difference."
Florida State is in the midst of playing six of eight matches versus ACC squads. So far the Seminoles have been able to upset two conference opponents (Maryland and Duke) and narrowly missed winning three straight with the loss at Virginia. Including the Clemson game, three of FSU's last four ACC games will be on the road and if FSU wants to finish in the top half of the conference for the third straight year, winning down the stretch will be vital.
"It is very important to finish up strong in conference play," said Rivera. "We started strong and want to continue to build on that as we near the conference tournament. It is important to be confident when you play ACC games so we will look to continue to build that in the final four games."
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