Sept. 13, 2006
Tallahassee, FL - Wednesday night's conditions were anything but ideal for a soccer match but with conference schedule to begin next week No. 1 Florida State and UCF didn't have much choice but to play. For the second year in a row and third time in the last four, the Seminoles and Golden Knights played a game in a driving rain and just like the two previous matches, FSU came out in front. Top-ranked Florida State (5-0) got goals from Selin Kuralay and Mami Yamaguchi while recording their second consecutive shutout downing the Golden Knights (3-2-1) 2-0.
"It was an unbelievable condition to play a game in, but soccer is one of those games that no matter what Mother Nature throws at you, you need to deal with," Florida State Head Coach Mark Krikorian said. "I'm very pleased with our effort. There was nothing artistic or beautiful about this one, but we had good fight and concentration and we did the best we could under the conditions we had."
Rain had been threatening all day long in Tallahassee but the skies didn't open up until FSU and UCF took the field for warm-ups and hour before kick-off. With the rain continuing to pour down throughout the first half, the ball was skipping on the wet field and then getting stuck in puddles making it hard for either team to play its game.
"It's funny because you don't really practice in these conditions," Krikorian said. "Usually when you have standing water on the field, it's dangerous and you don't want to put your players in that environment. But you talk to your players a little bit about playing a lot of air balls and try to poke the ball out of puddles. Unless you've done that a few times, it's hard to make adjustments like that. I thought our kids did a great job of it to be pretty honest with you."
"It was, pretty much in the first half, impossible to play soccer," said Kuralay. "It was more like a rugby game than anything. The key was trying not to keep possession or dribble around at all. Just pretty much boot the ball as far up the field as you can and hope for the best. Both teams were really struggling through the first 20 with the conditions. I think we adapted really well towards the end of the first half when we started to lift the ball off the ground instead of playing it on the deck."
The wet conditions didn't seem to bother Kuralay though who scored a goal in her fourth straight game, the second longest streak in Seminole soccer history. With the goal Kuralay now has recorded a point in all five games this season and had the game-winning goal in three of the Seminoles' five victories.
"For me, I always want to score," said Kuralay of her early season success. "I am always going to try to get into the right position and hopefully put the ball in the back of the net. I have been fortunate that has happened for me so far."
With the ball skipping and jumping all over the field, Ali Mims and the Seminole defense also didn't seem to have too much trouble with the weather. The group recorded its second straight shutout and third of the season. Mims has never allowed a goal to the Golden Knights in three games and more than 245 minutes of action.
"The defense is playing at a very high level now," said Mims who notched the 12th shutout and 33rd win of her career. "I am very confident in their ability even in the wet weather tonight. The defense did a great job of getting their bodies behind the ball and clearing them out. Once we started to get the ball up in the air because of the wet surface, the defense played phenomenal. They helped me out in a lot of situations I got caught up in. Overall, we are playing well and want to build on it."
The start of the game was near impossible for both teams. Every pass or run was foiled by the ball stopping in a puddle. Just four minutes in the weather halted a would-be India Trotter goal when the senior get in alone with UCF keeper Jennifer Manis. Trotter got about five yards from the goalmouth but slipped before she could pull the trigger.
The weather almost cost UCF a goal later in the first half. A turnover in the back led to a Mami Yamaguchi pass to Kuralay. The junior ripped a shot that went just wide left. Kuralay had two more great shots but both went wide to the right this time as she piled up seven shots on the evening.
As many chances as FSU had, UCF probably the most dangerous opportunity in the scoreless match. The chance came off a corner kick and Mims got caught trying to get the ball but was unable to come up with it. After the service bounced around, Sarah De Leon got a shot on the open goal but Katrin Schmidt was there to save the ball.
That opened the door for Kuralay who scored an opportunistic goal at the 37:03 mark. The play started with a great free kick by Sarah Wagenfuhr. Kuralay went up between two UCF defenders and won the header. She was unable to get the ball back until a failed Golden Knight clearance set the All-American up with a look at a wide open net. The junior fired past a sliding defender for the 1-0 lead.
"It was a long free kick and we won the first touch," Krikorian said. "Then it was a knockdown and (Kuralay) has a good sense of timing. She reads the play well and she has the quality to finish."
"All I saw was the empty goal with no goalkeeper in it," said Kuralay. "I pretty much eliminated the other girl, my defender, and then I just went in and hoped for the best. Somebody has to put their body on the line and anything can happen. I am just glad I could help us get a victory."
After securing a 10-5 lead in shots in the first half, the rain let up at halftime and the field dried so there was hope for a much prettier second half. While the rain did return the field held up much better after draining and FSU went on to take 12 shots to just one for the Golden Knights. The Seminoles limited UCF to no shots through the first 32 minutes of the second.
"It wasn't quite our normal style of soccer, that's for sure," Krikorian said. "We adjusted to the conditions pretty well and did the best we could. Our field drains as well as any field in the country, so as soon as the field started draining we were able to put the ball in play a little bit. I would have liked to put the ball in play for 90 minutes."
With the field conditions more accommodating, the Seminoles began to generate more opportunities and just five minutes in it looked as if they had cashed in. A free kick was played into Kuralay who buried the shot only to see a questionable offsides flag in the air.
Five minutes later FSU generated another chance. This one began with a stellar Trotter run to the top of the 18 where she played a square ball to Yamaguchi. The sophomore drove a shot to the backpost but Manis just got a hand on it to push it wide.
Two minutes later Yamaguchi and Trotter once again combined on a near goal. This time it was a beautiful 1-2 that got Trotter an open look but her shot was put wide of the near post.
In the 66th minute a cleared free kick in the Seminole box sprung Trotter at midfield. She made a run to the net being marked by two Golden Knight defenders. As she got to the top of the 18 she was dispossessed but recovered to win the ball and get a shot off. Her shot was once again low and required a diving Manis save.
The run by Trotter may not have resulted in a goal but the ensuing corner she won sure did. Kuralay's set piece was cleared out to Yamaguchi right at the top of the 18. The sophomore one-timed her shot into the side netting at the near post.
"I just kicked the ball, to be honest I was trying to shoot to the other side," said Yamaguchi. "It went in though so I am happy. It was a bit lucky but I am happy I was able to score."
The Seminole onslaught continued in the 70th minute on another rip from Yamaguchi that required Manis to dive and turn away just wide of the post.
Kelly Rowland fueled the next Seminole attack when she played a perfect long ball up the field 40 yards to Trotter. The All-American ran to the 18 and found Yamaguchi one more time. The midfielder fired but it was right into Manis' chest.
Manis once again was able to just get a hand on a potential FSU goal as she came up with her sixth save of the night. This time it was a brilliant piece of individual effort by Trotter. The senior played a back heel to herself to create space and then fired low to the backpost where Manis was just able to get a piece of the shot.
Top ranked Florida State returns to action Sunday at 12:00 p.m. versus FAU. The game will be played in Boca Raton and is the first visit to Florida Atlantic by the Seminoles. This is the first of three straight road games for Florida State. Game Tracker will be available for the game at Seminoles.com, the official athletic website for Florida State University.