Dec. 3, 2003
Assistant AD for Media Relations
Tallahassee, FL - By most standards our intercollegiate athletic programs are still young, yet there are few Florida State people who have had the privilege of seeing a sport born and developed. So one should forgive FSU soccer fans if we walk around this week grinning like proud parents, after all, we have the chance this weekend to see our team play in the NCAA College Cup, which is soccer's Final Four. One win and we will have a chance to see our Seminoles play for the national championship on Sunday. I hope we are all taking advantage of celebrating the accomplishments of our soccer team this season.
Certainly any FSU fan would be proud to see one of our programs advance to the championship round of its tournament, but the soccer program is in a unique position because most of the same people who fought so hard to begin the program are in place to watch it flourish. And that from some very humble beginnings. Because of the matrix of real estate changes that had to take place for FSU to end up with the beautiful soccer/softball complex we enjoy today, the Seminoles began collegiate soccer playing on the dusty, bumpy intramural fields across from Tully Gym. The same intramural field, by the way, that I played fraternity football on in the early '80s. The same field they had to chase Frisbee catching dogs from in order for the teams to begin pre-game warm-ups.
A quick history lesson on FSU soccer starts in 1995 when Heather Kerby-Nelson guided the first-year program to a 4-14-1 start. The Seminoles had the double disadvantage of beginning a program that would have to face more established ones regularly, and they would have to compete immediately in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which has long been the home of the nation's best women's soccer programs. Coach Kerby-Nelson would coach the Seminoles through the 1998 season with just one winning season, but she had established a good foundation for the program.
Patrick Baker was hired as the second head coach in FSU soccer history prior to the 1999 season after coaching the women at Penn for five years. His first team nearly pulled FSU soccer even with its top flight competition by finishing 9-10-1, and since that season the Seminoles have established themselves as NCAA Tournament regulars and serious contenders for the ACC crown. Any question as to whether FSU's first trip to the College Cup is a fluke is easily refuted by pointing to the Seminole's four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, which include advances to the NCAA Sweet 16 in three of the last four years.
For those of us still learning about college soccer, the analogy to the basketball tournaments, both NCAA and ACC, is the best way to appreciate just what is happening with our Seminoles. They have advanced to the championship of the ACC Tournament two of the last three years and have more 13-wins seasons than any other ACC school except North Carolina over the last four years. FSU beat two Top 10 ranked programs (West Virginia and Florida) on the road to the Final Four of soccer, which is every bit the equivalent basketball's Final Four.
You can learn all about our players and all the action from this season by looking at the NCAA media guide posted on our website under soccer, and we hope you will follow all the action this weekend from the NCAA soccer championships. The Seminoles will play Connecticut this Friday at noon with a national television audience looking on via ESPN2. Should FSU defeat Connecticut they will play the winner of the other semifinal game between North Carolina and UCLA on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. for the National Championship.
It seems like just yesterday that we gathered around the barren intramural field for that inaugural soccer game in 1995. I would suspect that few dreamed that day that just nine years later the program would reach the Final Four. Fortunately, some at FSU dared to dream.