Sept. 26, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - Is it a coincidence that since Florida State defender Kristin Boyce arrived in Tallahassee the Seminoles have gone to three straight NCAA Tournaments? Is it a coincidence that she has started more games than any other player on the FSU backline since 2000 and in that time FSU has allowed the fewest goals in a three-year span in team history? Although winning and defending are both team concepts, few in Tallahassee would argue Boyce's role in both of those successes.
"Boyce has always been a winner. She went to four or five national championships at the club level and then the first year she is in Tallahassee, we go to the Sweet 16. She means a great deal to this team," said Florida State head coach Patrick Baker. "She has wanted to win at every level and she brought that mentality to us here from day one and ever since she has been here we have won."
The Austin, TX native is a two-time SoccerBuzz All-Region third team selection leading the Seminole defense from her left back spot. She is the school's all-time leading scorer among defenders and she has led her team into the Sweet 16 in two of the last three years yet the national spotlight has missed her. The senior doesn't want to be recognized individually but many at FSU think she hasn't received anywhere near the credit she deserves.
"Boyce has been such a mainstay for us on the left side and from the outside looking in, is probably the most underrated player on our team. I thought it was a crime that she didn't garner All-ACC honors last year," said Baker. "It is funny you can make all region and not make all conference.
"It is always tough for defenders to get recognition and even tougher for wide backs compared to center backs. If you think about how many times she gets the ball in our possession oriented style and is able to link up with midfielders and forwards, how many times she makes overlapping runs and gets into the attacking third, she is a player."
Not being named an All-American or an All-ACC selection doesn't really bother the laid back Texan. She knows how tough it is to get national recognition playing in the back and how many talented players there are in the college game today.
"It doesn't bother me. When I see the players that are singled out for awards, I think its well deserved. I'm not necessarily in that group yet," said Boyce. "That is just how it is. The players that score the goals get the recognition but your teammates know what you contribute to the overall success and that's most important. The need for individual recognition just depends on the type of person you are. For me, that isn't a motivation."
However, being successful has always been a motivation for Boyce but that was difficult when she was moved to defense at Florida State her freshman year. She was thrown right into the fire starting for the first time against Texas A&M and future WUSA forward Heather Ragsdale.
"I was always a front runner or midfielder when I was playing club until probably my junior year of high school," said Boyce.
Her relative lack of experience hasn't stopped her from starting 60 consecutive games and making 73 starts in the last 74 games. She has faced the college games most dangerous strikers like Aly Wagner, Christine Sinclair, Lindsay Tarpley and Deliah Arrington to name just a few.
"I love facing the best players. I wish I could face a big name forward every game because it is just that much more exciting. I get more pumped up for the games when one of those great forwards comes to town," said Boyce. "I know it is the defense's job to stop them and that is exciting. It is a great way to measure myself and I get a chance to see why one player is better than another. What makes them great."
"Lets face it, the credit for her transition to defense goes to her. She came here in 2000 and there were so many new things going on with this team and we were so excited about her recruiting class. She blended in so well in the back and has never left," said Baker. "I feel so confident with her that when the ball goes into her area I start focusing on another aspect of the game because I know we will be fine with her on the ball. I start looking ahead because I never worry about what she will do."
Although she no longer plays up top, that hasn't stopped the forward trapped in a defender's body from racking up points. She leads all Florida State defenders with eight goals and 20 points in her career. She loves to attack and it is one of the things that separate her from other defenders across the country.
"I have always been pretty offensive-oriented. When I moved to the back that didn't stop me from wanting to get forward whenever I could and do the exciting stuff too, not that defense isn't exciting," she said with a smile.
Boyce knows better than anyone how different the pressures are for forwards and defenders. While she loves making her runs up the flanks, she thrives on the pressure that comes from being in the back.
"There is an obvious pressure that comes with being the last line of defense. If it comes to you, it is your job to stop them from scoring," said Boyce. "When you miss a goal while attacking, people tell you 'good try' and 'better luck next time'. As a defender if you miss, the ball is in the back of the net and it isn't as easy as 'nice try'. I like it. I enjoy it more than the pressure that comes on the offensive side of the ball. There is so little margin for error in the back but I guess I kind of thrive on that."
It would be hard to tell Boyce is under any pressure at all on the field. It is actually hard to tell she really plays with any emotion because of how calm her demeanor is.
"I am a competitive person. Nobody likes to lose. That's just how it is in life. I just think it is important to be calm on the field and have a little composure. You can't freak out in my position because there is added pressure on the back line," said Boyce.
"I give everything I have every time I go out there and if we come up short I know I have work ahead of me to get better. I can't see getting too high or too low after any play. I am going to be upset after a loss or if I haven't preformed as well as I think I could have but you have to learn from that."
Part of the reason she can keep her cool is how successful FSU has been since she arrived on campus in 2000. Coming to a team that had one winning season in five years, Boyce never had any doubts she would win games in Tallahassee. Losing never entered her mind.
"Personally, I never expected anything else but success from the first day I got here," recalls Boyce. "Luckily that has been the case and hopefully that will continue through my senior year. I played on a great club team and had always been a part of successful teams so I just expected the same would hold true here. It was simple for me. If we worked hard, we would be rewarded.
"Looking back now, I definitely think that was a little na?ve on my part. I just don't think anybody really enters a situation and pictures losses and disappointment. You anticipate good things happening."
Good things have been happening for Boyce and FSU since her arrival. The team has been to the Sweet 16 twice in the last three years, they have been to the NCAA Tournament three times, they are 3-0 in opening round NCAA Tournament games and they have already played in the ACC championship final. It is quite a change from a program that was 14 games below .500 in its first five years of existence.
"We have come a long way. Before my class came in the program hadn't experienced a lot of success. Every year since then things have been getting better and better," said Boyce. "I do take pride in that. Everyone wants to feel they are a part of something positive and been able to contribute to making things better. I think every class feels that way."
Boyce has been instrumental in that turn around and not only because of her stellar play on the field. As good as she is on the pitch, she is an even better person off the field.
"I will never forget what she said to me in our post-season meeting after her freshman year," remembers Baker. "I asked her what she was looking forward to as a sophomore. She told me that she just wanted to prove to the coaches and her teammates that she deserves to start again. That was so refreshing to hear. She started as a freshman on a Sweet 16 team and her goal was to come back prove her worth all over again."
"I've known Boyce since we were little runts running around in the Olympic Development Program. Her witty humor put a smile on everyone's face," said teammate and fellow senior Amber Tollefson. "She is always bringing light to a situation and making everyone laugh. She's an aggressive warrior on the field, but a caring, compassionate person off."
Her teammates aren't the only ones who see how special she is. It is almost impossible to miss even over a short period of time. At the Patrick Baker Soccer Camps held every summer Boyce is a camper favorite despite sessions that last only about four days.
"She cares about people. She cares about her teammates and that shows. When she works at our summer camps she gives everything. She never cuts corners and always gives more rather than less," said Baker. "When we do the post-camp intros at the end of the week, she is getting the biggest cheers and claps. Campers want her autograph."
She received the ultimate respect from her teammates in the off-season when she was elected to captain potentially the best team ever assembled at FSU. The Tribe is coming off a season when they set the best record in program history on the way to the Round of 16 at the NCAA Tournament.
If FSU is to take that elusive next step past the Sweet 16, it will be the Boyce-led defense that has to take them there. The FSU backline returns two other starters from last year but Boyce played on the best defense in school history in 2000 and knows it will be a challenge to match that groups accomplishments.
"I am excited about this group and it could be one of the best I have played with," she said. "You never can tell though until it is all said and done and you can look at the season as a whole. I am starting to get a better idea of how much we can accomplish as a unit. I hope we can challenge the group from my freshman year in 2000 who allowed the fewest goals in FSU history."
With three years of battles under her belt, Boyce knows that it really takes such a combination of factors to succeed in a game that is getting more competitive every year. But as much parity as there is in women's soccer today, she knows there are a group of teams that seem to be where the Seminoles want to be, in the College Cup.
"When you look at the College Cup, it seems like you see a lot of the same teams there every year. It would be nice if we could crash that party but I don't know if that is going to happen this year. I think it is a realistic goal for this team to advance deeper into the NCAA Tournament than the Round of 16 but it will come down to how much we want it. A lot depends on how hard this team is willing to work and making the right decisions throughout the season.
"I think the next step for this program is just improving and getting a little bit better. We need to just take small steps because this is still a fairly young program. I think it is a mentality more than anything. Believing in our capabilities. There really shouldn't be any doubts in our minds about what we can accomplish as a team."
A trip to Cary, NC is already guaranteed for the 2003 Seminoles since the ACC Tournament will be played at the new SAS Soccer Park but a return trip in December would be the ultimate cap to the senior's career.
"I know what she means to our players, our coaching staff and our program and I am just happy we have one more year with her. She just keeps getting better and better," said Baker. "We have to send our two seniors off on a high note and there are no two seniors that have ever come through our program more deserving of that than Boyce and Amber Tollefson."
"I just want things to end positively. I don't want to put any ultimatums like we need to win this many games or go this far. I want to have fun my senior year. It would be so satisfying for me to end all of my four years on a positive note," said Boyce.
For a player who has doing nothing but perform on the highest level and win everywhere she has been, it is hard to imagine her career ending any other way.