Oct. 24, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - Senior night is always tough and it is especially hard when you are honoring two of arguably the most important players in program history in Amber Tollefson and Kristin Boyce. On top of that you have to collect your emotions and go out and play a conference foe with postseason positioning on the line. It's not easy but that will be the case tonight when 14th-ranked Florida State (9-5-1, 3-1-1) takes on NC State (8-6-1, 1-4-0) at 7:00 p.m. at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
"Tonight is special because of the two young ladies we get to recognize," said head coach Patrick Baker. "Our players - seniors included - need to balance their emotions, especially right before the kick-off and during the first 5 to 10 minutes of the game. We realize that we face an ACC opponent as well and need to play a great game at home."
Besides honoring two of the Florida State's all-time greats, the Seminoles are still fighting to put themselves in position for the ACC Tournament, which begins Wednesday, November 5 in Cary, NC. A win over the Wolfpack would guarantee FSU of finishing no worse than fourth in the conference and if Clemson beats Duke (tonight at 7:00 p.m. in South Carolina) the Seminoles would lock up at least a third place finish.
"We are very excited to be 3-1-1 in the ACC right now, but know that every game could have gone either way," said Baker. "Our players have been in a must win mind set since starting 1-4-0 and today is no different. Currently being in second place is great, but there is a lot of soccer left to be played and there are a number of scenarios that can unfold. We are trying to get another big win tonight."
Florida State will also have the added incentive of attempting to go undefeated at home versus ACC squads for the second time in three years. In 2001 the Seminoles ran the table versus Duke, Maryland and NC State just as they are trying to do in 2003. Florida State has never lost to the Pack in Tallahassee and the all-time series is tied at 3-3-2. A win would give FSU its first-ever lead in an all-time series with an ACC opponent but it won't be easy. From 1999 to 2001 FSU and NC State played three consecutive overtime games.
"I think some people may have written off NC State before last week but we didn't," said Jez Ratliff. "They just beat a very good Maryland team so we know what they are capable of. They can upset you and the last time they played here they gave us all we could handle. If we are able to beat them it will mean we've had the most successful ACC season in our history but it won't come easy."
One of the keys to tonight's match-up will be the continuing development of an FSU defense that takes the field for just the second time in 68 games without Boyce at the left back spot. The senior, out with an injury suffered at Clemson, was replaced by
sophomore Teresa Rivera at Wake last week and the Tribe shutdown the Deacon offense for 110 minutes extending FSU's school record shutout streak to 380:27.
"We missed Boyce out there but I think we did pretty well. We shut out a top 15 team in Wake Forest for 110 minutes," said Katie Beal. "T (Teresa Rivera) came in on the left side and she did really well. As a unit we came together. There is still room for improvement but we didn't let Wake score and that is a positive we will build on."
Losing a four-year starter like Boyce is tough but it is even more difficult at this time of the season. The Seminoles are in the midst of playing five of six games versus ACC teams and the conference tournament and possible NCA Tournament are just weeks away.
"It is always difficult playing ACC teams and having lost Boyce in the middle of conference play is tough but we aren't focusing on the competition we are just looking at ourselves and how we could make our defense work without her," said Beal. "We focused on doing well no matter who the opponent was."
As stellar as the defense has been, the high-flying Florida State offense has scored just one goal in the last 207:46. A lot of that has to do with the level of competition the Tribe has faced at Clemson and at Wake. This season the Tribe has scored 13 goals in eight road games (1.6 goals/game) but at home they have averaged almost three goals a game (16 in six games). That bodes well for the FSU attack tonight but midfielder Ratliff doesn't see the venue as the problem.
"We've had chances the last few games but we just haven't capitalized and we have also been facing some great teams," said Ratliff. "We have been working in practice this week on finishing that final piece. We need to continue creating chances and just be a little better finishing those opportunities."
The junior from Norman, OK, isn't as worried about the team's offense, which has been averaging 2.9 goals per game during the team's 8-1-1 run, as she is about sending Tollefson and Boyce off on the right note on senior night. The two seniors ushered in a new era of Seminole soccer when they came to FSU in 2000. They have never had a losing season. They have been to the NCAA Tournament every year and won at least one game there and they have never lost to NC State. Ratliff thinks that will be the motivating factor tonight.
"Amber and Boyce are the two closet people to me on this team so being able to send them off on senior night the right way would be great," said Ratliff. "They have worked so hard for the three senior classes ahead of them. Now it is their turn.
"Their four years at FSU were the best four years in program history. You have to think they had something to do with that. They established a winning tradition here and brought all this success with them. It is up to us to thank them properly tonight."
Senior ceremonies will begin at 6:50 p.m. tonight and the Seminoles final home ACC match of the year is scheduled for a 7:07 p.m. start. The game will be broadcast throughout Florida on the Sunshine Network, which can be seen locally on channel 28.
Florida State's last three Friday night games have seen record attendances of over 1,000 fans. In fact, the Seminoles have never lost at home on a Friday night with more than 1,000 fans in attendance (6-0-0) and overall the Tribe is 14-1-2 at home on Friday's since 1999.
For more information on Seminole soccer, tonight's match or the upcoming ACC Tournament, please log on to www.seminoles.com the official home for the Florida State University Athletic Department on the web.