June 11, 2004
Tallahassee, FL - After a few weeks back, head soccer coach Patrick Baker sat down with seminoles.com to discuss the team's experience in Australia. He talks about the experiences on and off the field. There are also three new photo galleries and a final report from SID-in-training Dr. Chuck Morris.
Reflections on the Australia trip:
The last two weekends we have been at recruiting events in New Jersey and Texas and a lot of people followed our trip. Coaches were asking how it was. First and foremost, to have a private donor graciously step up and provide a wonderful opportunity for our program is mind-boggling. You still just shake your head that someone would be that caring. For seven years I have wanted to go on this trip and to have it be everything I hoped and even more made it that much more special. Sometimes after years of build-up you can become disappointed if things aren't as good as you have made them out to be in your mind. It was everything and more than I had built it up to be in my head.
The other key piece was the three games versus Australia's full national team. The timing of it with their team getting ready for the Olympics and now it has been announced that Australia will be in the same group as the US. For our girls to be able to see them play first hand and then watching them in the Olympics will be great. Our girls know who they are and it will be fun for them to see that same group in the Olympics. The other thing that I think was important from a soccer standpoint is that we really played some quality soccer. I don't know if we did that throughout the entire spring. A lot of that was due to injuries where we didn't have our full compliment of players. We had everyone in Australia and, at a very high level against some of the best players in the world, we were able to play and play well. We left Australia feeling very good about where we are at and what the future could hold.
What will the players take from the games as the team moves towards the fall:
One of the things when you play international competition, it is a full 90 minute game. If you take a break, they will make you pay. If you make a mistake, they will make you pay. If you are not playing you're a game, you can struggle to get a result. That is exactly what we experienced. It is going to be something our players can walk away from and say there are going to be a lot of teams gearing up for us, there we be a lot of games like that in the fall and we have to rise up. The thing I thought was great versus the Australian national team the games were very competitive and both teams had their chances. We may not have found as many ways to win but I think that will change as we transition back into the college game. I feel like one of the things we will rely heavily on is this senior class, their leadership and their level of performance. I believe if our seniors play well, considering half of our starting line-up could be seniors, they will be the difference between us winning and losing. That is a part of being a leader.
What the players will take away off the field from their trip to Australia:
One of the things that I thought was great was by the end of the trip nobody was tired of one another. Being away as long as we were, there is a great commroderie and team dynamic right now. That was never more true than on this trip. Darren, who conducted our tour, emailed me a week after we got back and said he has never been with a group that was more professional than our team. We try to set that environment but it is nice when someone on the other side of the world picks up on that as well. Our bonds got stronger as a team. The players got to see the coaches in a more relaxed setting. We spent some quality time together and there was nothing but positives coming out of the trip off the field as well.
Also there were some once in a lifetime experiences for the players. They got to share memories together that nobody in their lives will ever experience with them in the future. The wildlife sanctuary, the Sydney Opera House, the kangaroos, the koala bears and so many other great experiences.
What are your most vivid memories form the trip:
Probably the first one was after the first game versus Australia. The other game field that was directly next to ours was behind our bench. We couldn't see anything behind us, the game had just ended and it was a great game where we fell 3-2. We played very well and came on strong at the end. After the whistle blew, I came out of the dugout area and started to walk to the mid-stripe to shake hands with Adrian (the Australian national team coach) and I looked to my left and there were 25 kangaroo out on the field looking at us. It is something I really didn't expect.
When we were at the Sydney Opera House our tour guide had us sitting on the steps and there were glass windows from the floor to the ceiling. As you looked out on to Sydney Harbor, I remember thinking that we are sitting in one of the most special places in all the world and there wasn't a group I would rather of been sitting there with. It was a surreal moment for me.
I also remember watching a lot of our players at the wildlife sanctuary. Right as we walked in there were hundreds of birds and if you stuck your arm out you could have 20 birds on each arm. For some of the girls to have the birds all over them and to hear them laughing and sometimes screaming was pretty humorous. The extra time together through all these experiences just strengthened their friendships.
What impacted me about the team on the field:
Having the honor to play the national team three teams, we did not take that for granted. We made it a point each time we played them to realize the uniqueness of the situation and what a special time it was for all of us. I also think, even though we only got to do it once, we saw our team with the 10 returning players from the final four all together on the field for the first team and it is a good team. We were able to finally see that in Australia and it was fun to watch. It was also nice to see the level of improvement in a lot of our players over the course of the spring that was reflected in Australia. The players and coaches both felt good about the way we progressed.
Final Travelogue from Dr. Chuck Morris
G'day Families and Friends of Seminole Soccer:
I'll start this final message from 38,000 feet over the Pacific during our return to the United States after a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Australia. We are about halfway through our 38 hour Sunday as we have already crossed the International Date Line and have picked back up the day we lost going to Australia.
Let me turn back the clock back a bit now and bring you up to date on our last couple of days in Australia and our return home. On Friday evening we went out as a team for dinner theater at Dracula's Cabaret Restaurant. Dinner was surprisingly very good and we enjoyed the show. It was quite late when the show ended so coach Baker gave the team the opportunity to sleep in on Saturday morning. Some of the girls relaxed while others strolled on the beach or shopped. Following team meetings, the team traveled by bus to the Italo-Australian Club for their final game before our largest crowd of the trip. Despite a hard-fought effort the team fell to the Matildas 4-1. After the game, the team was greeted on the field by many of the children in attendance who were seeking autographs and a chance to have their photo taken with the players. Our girls were tremendous ambassadors for both FSU and our nation and stayed until every child was satisfied. (I forgot to mention in my last message that this occurred as well after Thursday night's game. That night a young Australian girl came out onto the field carrying her soccer jersey and asked Camie Bybee if Brandi Chastain was here so she could get her autograph. This compliment made the team's evening.) Before departing for the hotel the Italo-Australian Club graciously hosted both teams to a light lunch.
Upon arrival back at the apartments the team had about three hours of free time before departing for our joint banquet with the Australian National Team and the Gold Coast Soccer Committee. The evening provided an enjoyable chance to meet the players who are competing for a spot on Australia's Olympic team. Gifts were exchanged and many a photo taken with our friends from Down Under.
After dinner we Darren and Jon (tour guides) also had some presentations to make. The first order of business was to present the Golden Thong Award to the Down Under Challenge champions. The final standings shuffled a bit but in the end the Tasmania Devils maintained their lead and were crowned champions. Finals scores were as follows:
Team Day 1 Day 2 Total Tasmanian Devils 39 73 112 Kookaburras 18 90* 108 Emus 38 62 100 Koalas 22 58 80* The Kookaburras total includes a 30 point bonus for a video they made in an effort to sway the judges. It nearly worked!
Following more photo ops and a few minutes listening to the piano player in the hotel lobby we headed back to the apartments to finish packing for our early Sunday morning departure. We assembled at our bus at 7:00 AM, loaded our bags, and made the short 30 minute ride to Coolangatta Airport. It was here that we bid a fond farewell to Jon and Darren and thanked them for their efforts in making our trip such a success. We then boarded our flight to Sydney International where we collected our bags and transferred via bus to the international terminal for our flight to San Francisco. Leah Gallegos, Julia Schnugg and Rhonda Kelly split off with us at this point and flew separately to Los Angeles to join their families and friends. Our trip to San Francisco took a little over 12 hours due to a strong tailwind. However, we had some very heavy turbulence for about an hour between Hawaii and the west coast that had everyone's attention. We landed early in San Francisco, which gave us plenty of time to collect our bags and process customs before changing planes for the five hour flight to Orlando. We had a smooth trip across the United States and were very pleased to begin the final leg of our journey by bus back to Tallahassee. Angela Bonaffino, Teresa Rivera, Erin Preston and Colette Swenson were met in the terminal by family and friends. The remaining travelers loaded up one last time and a very weary group pulled into the south end zone parking lot at about 1:00 AM Monday morning. One last time we gathered our bags and souvenirs for the short ride to our homes.
Before turning the reins back over to Elliott, please let me tell you what a great pleasure it was for me and my wife to travel with your Seminole Soccer team and to share their trip with you through words and photos. Not only did the team have a tremendous competitive experience on the playing field, but they had a marvelous cultural experience as well. Please be assured that they are extremely grateful to all those who made this trip possible and that they represented Florida State University in a manner in which we all can take great pride. Thanks as well to our Seminole Soccer supporters who have been following our trip and who have been wishing the team success as they competed.