Aug. 31, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - It has been a long time since a Florida State soccer team opened a season at 0-2. The last time was Patrick Baker's first year as coach in 1999. After dropping a 2-1 decision to the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions (1-1-0) Sunday, the Tribe lost back-to-back home games for just the second time in the regular season under Baker. Penn State, a 2002 College Cup semi-finalist, was the 13th College Cup team FSU (0-2-0) has faced the season after making it to the national final four and they bounced back after a one-goal loss to Florida Friday night.
"In my previous three seasons, we have never started off a year with two teams (USC and Penn State) that are this good," said senior Amber Tollefson. "To come out and play a final four team, compete with them and control play for large stretches was important. We wanted the result today and didn't get it but we played well. This is a great starting point for us and I am proud of how much better we played today compared to Friday."
After an effort FSU coaches considered lackluster Friday night versus No. 19 Southern California, the Tribe rose to the challenge against a PSU team that has been to two of the last four College Cups. The Tribe played PSU even statistically with both teams taking 12 shots. The Lions had a slight edge in shots on goal and won the corner kick battle 4-3. After being fouled 20 times by USC Friday night, PSU was just as physical being whistled 18 times and receiving three, second half yellow cards.
"One of the things we talked about was trying to play better and we made considerable strides from Friday to today," said Baker. "I felt like at times we showed the team we could be but we still aren't keeping the ball out of the back of the net and we are still failing to capitalize on some pretty good chances. Hopefully we will refine that.
"How well we played today in relation to Friday was night and day. If we would have put together this type of performance Friday, it may have been a different story. We really did some good things today."
Florida State has only lost back-to-back games five times since 2000 and the only time they have ever opened a season 0-2 was in 1999. After a somewhat slow start in 2002 (1-1-2), FSU bounced back and made the team's second trip to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament so the coaches and players are not panicking in the least.
"It is hard losing the first two games of the season. We aren't used to that," said junior Katie Beal. "We are all disappointed but we know we got better today. We're getting better each time. There are still things we need to work on. We need to find a way to shut out teams defensively and get a few more goals on the board as an offense."
"These games will only help us prepare for the rest of the year," said Baker. "These are similar to ACC games and the type of game we will get at Gainesville Friday. It is great for us to play big time opponents like this right off the bat. Hopefully we learn from this and keep making ourselves better. If we do, we will get those results."
Florida State got off to a good start in search of that first result of the year as they started the scoring in the 16th minute. Beal served a great free kick from almost 40 yards out into the box. Freshman Julia Schnugg, who measures just 5'5", challenged PSU keeper Amanda Brown (1-1-0) for the service. Schnugg got her head on it and the ball fell right between Jez Ratliff and Tollefson. The senior got a touch on it before Ratliff followed her as the two shot almost simultaneously.
"Jez and I could split credit but I don't mind who got the stat, I was just glad it got in the back of the net," said Tollefson. "Last game we didn't challenge like we should have. That goal came from Julia (Schnugg) challenging the keeper first and then Jez and I went after it. I'm just glad it went in."
The goal was the second in two games for Ratliff. Last season she scored in back-to-back games in the second and third matches of the year. With four points in just two games, the Oklahoman is off to the best start of her three year career.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half, SoccerBuzz preseason Player of the Year Joanna Lohman evened the game with her second goal of the season. The strike came off a free kick after India Trotter was booked for pulling down a PSU player about 45 yards from goal. Leigh Hamilton served the kick into the box at the back post and Lohman latched on to it as her header beat Joy McKenzie (0-2-0) and the Seminole defense.
Lohman was one of the main focuses of the FSU defense Sunday afternoon. The senior from Silver Spring, MD had 31 points in 2002 and now has 79 points in her Nittany Lion career.
"I can see why (Joanna) Lohman is a player of the year candidate. She is very good," said Beal. "She is a huge part of what they are able to accomplish as an offense."
"We challenged our midfield to step up and deal with Lohman and company and for the most part they did," said Baker.
The FSU offense put the pressure on Penn State at the start of the second half. Just two minutes in, Leah Gallegos sent Ratliff down the right wing. She got endline and crossed to fellow Oklahoman Camie Bybee who was unable to pull the trigger. The Nittany Lion defense cleared the ball but it landed right at the feet of Gallegos about 18 yards away. The sophomore fired a shot that was blocked before it could get on frame.
In the 64th minute the Tribe broke out in numbers after a cleared free kick. Gallegos got the clearance at her feet and dribbled almost 50 yards with Ratliff and Schnugg supporting her. With the Seminoles out numbering the PSU defense 3 to 2, Gallegos' final pass was just off the mark.
"We are struggling a little bit linking up. The times we have connected in both games have resulted in quality chances," said Ratliff. "We are having trouble finishing in that final third and sending that final ball in. We have worked on it but we need to do better. When we get that down, it will be on."
"We are getting considerably better on offense," said Tollefson. "We practice it every day but it is in games where you really see what you need to work on. I really think this is a great starting point for us except we didn't get a result. We will be fine."
Just five minutes later, Penn State struck again. Sophomore Tiffany Weimer made a run down FSU's left flank and caught the experienced Seminole back four out of defensive shape. The North Haven, CT native slotted the ball to 1st Team All-Mid-Atlantic region forward Heidi Drummond who was in alone with the keeper. The Littleton, CO native buried the 42nd goal of her career at the near post.
"At first it was difficult to adjust to their offense and they had us under a lot of pressure," said Beal. "Once we gauged their system we did fine. We gave away two easy goals though. I think we were out of shape on the game-winner. All four of us were not together and when you are not together teams will make you pay for it. We have to find a way to stop that in the future."
The goal was the first of the year allowed by the FSU defense in the run of play. Although Lohman won't get an assist in the box score on the goal, she may have played a huge role as her run caused the Tribe defense to lose shape.
"The game winner was the first goal of the four we allowed this weekend that was given up in the run of play," said Baker. "To be honest, I couldn't even tell what happened. Joanna Lohman was making an unbalanced run and I was telling Julia (Schnugg) to pinch back with her. The next thing I know she (Drummond) is in, I look up and she is hitting it.
"Penn State had maybe two good chances in the second half and they made it count. The same thing happened versus USC. We need to stay a little more focused and tighten things up in the back."
Florida State will play its third ranked team in eight days as they head on the road Friday, September 5 to face No. 21 Florida (2-0-0) in Gainesville. The Gators came into the season unranked in two polls but after a 2-1 win over Penn State and a 4-3 victory over USC, UF is sure to make a jump in this week's polls. The Tribe has won three of the last four versus UF and is 1-1 in their last two trips to Percy Beard Stadium.
If you need more information on the Florida State soccer team, please visit the FSU Athletic Department's official home on the web at www.seminoles.com.