Nov. 15, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - Somehow you just knew when Auburn's name flashed up on the screen in the Tallahassee, FL bracket during the NCAA Selection show, that the Tigers and Seminoles would meet. Why not? The two teams have squared off in the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. While the venues were different, once in Clemson, SC and the next in Tallahassee, FL, the results were the same. Both times sixth-ranked FSU (14-7-1) ended Auburn's (14-3-3) season. Something like that sticks with a team.
"Being in the tournament again with Florida State is the same thing that has happened the last two years so I think we have some revenge that we owe them, because they took us out of the tournament both of those years," said Auburn's Sarah Steinman.
"We have to be aware of the situation Sunday," said Joy McKenzie. "All of us have a good idea that Auburn is going to want to come after us. We have to want it more and that has been our mentality all year. Our will to win has to be great than their will to succeed. That is what we are looking to do Sunday."
The Tigers have been pointing towards this match with FSU since the found out they were headed to Tallahassee and there was a possibility they could face the Seminoles. After two one-goal losses in 2001 and 2002, you can't blame Auburn for hoping to put an end to the streak, which is now four straight wins for FSU dating back to 1998.
"We have to take care of business when we play Oklahoma State. That is the first team that is on my mind and I think the same can be said for the team as well," said Florida native and Tiger goalkeeper Megan Rivera. "If we do get that chance and Florida State does beat Dartmouth then we will try for revenge when we play them again. It was a very close match last year. With this being our third year with a chance to play them, hopefully the third time will be the charm."
"I remember that Auburn has always fought us to the end," said Camie Bybee. "This will be my third time seeing them but this is the best Florida State team they will have seen. Hopefully we will play to our potential and have continued success against them."
Despite being the two teams in the Tallahassee regional that weren't conference champions, the Tribe and Tigers each recorded shutouts on their way to the Round of 32. Auburn dispatched Big 12 Champion Oklahoma State 1-0 and FSU ousted Ivy champ Dartmouth 5-0.
"On paper, these were the two teams most people thought were going to advance. I am sure they feel there is some unfinished business because when they looked at our scoreboard during the national anthem and saw the 2002 Sweet 16 banner, that win (against them) last year was one of the steps for us," said head coach Patrick Baker. "I am sure they feel it is fitting that they are back here in Tallahassee in position to put themselves in the round of 16."
Auburn enters the match looking to reach the first Sweet 16 in school history. Last season was the first time the Tigers won an NCAA Tournament game and they are looking to take the next step in 2003. For FSU a win would put the Seminoles into their third Sweet 16 in four years. A feat that only 10 other schools in the country have a chance to match.
"It is a great opportunity for us to get to our third Sweet 16. We are at home and this team has as much talent as any we have had," said Marion Cagle. "We have to take it one game at a time and there is a great Auburn team in our way. We can't look past them. If we play to our capabilities, I believe this team can do anything."
The Tigers have the advantage of playing just one game in the 10 days leading up to the second round match due to a loss in the opening round of the SEC Championships. Florida State has played four games in the last 11 days including the ACC final versus North Carolina. That is a key reason the Tribe's 5-0 win over Dartmouth was so important. It gave Baker a chance to rest some of his starters.
"Number one, it is great for team morale when you can get everyone in the game. Number two, it allowed us some recovery time, which is important," said Baker. "If the game was a little more in the balance, more of our personality players would have had to remained on the field and the risk would be greater for injury. It was great to get everybody 15 to 20 minutes of good rest in preparation for Auburn on Sunday."
One of the most important players in Sunday's game could be attacking midfielder Bybee. The junior scored two goals versus Dartmouth and is now FSU's career leader for goals in the NCAA Tournament. She has scored half of those four goals in two games against Auburn. In 2001, she had the game-winner in a 1-0 victory. Last season, she staked the Tribe to a 1-0 lead.
"Camie has scored against Auburn both times and she scored the game-winner against them in 2001 in Clemson," said Baker. "She scored a great goal off a set piece against them last year."
The teams are very familiar with one another as are the staffs but Florida State hasn't seen too many teams lately that employ a 4-3-3 like Auburn. Figuring out a way to solve the system will be a key to victory for FSU Sunday.
"Their staff knows us really well. Karen (Hoppa) is on our U-19 National Team staff. She has done a wonderful job with that program," said Baker. "They play a 4-3-3, which is a little different system than what we have seen the last couple of times out. Of course we hadn't seen Dartmouth's system either and it took us some time to solve it. Once we started to understand what they were trying to do we were able to expose it and have some success."
The 2003 version of the Auburn Tigers will be the best FSU has ever faced. These Tigers have recorded 11 shutouts on the season and went 687 minutes without allowing a goal at one point. Junior goalkeeper Rivera is a Miami, FL native and she enters Sunday's game with a miniscule GAA of 0.62. She has 25 career shutouts, which is third all-time on the SEC.
"The key for us is to play to our strengths Sunday against Auburn and limit their strengths and confine Auburn's personality players," said Baker. "The difference I think between last year's Auburn team and this year's squad is last season they had two or three difference-makers. This year they have five or six. That's going to keep our hands full."
Live stats will be available for tomorrow's game between the Tigers and Seminoles. There will also be a live Internet radio broadcast available through the Auburn athletic website at www.auburntigers.com. Sunday's game is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and tickets are $7.00 for adults and $5.00 for students (3-18) and for seniors (50+). A limited number of Florida State students will be admitted for free with valid student ID. For more information on the NCAA Tournament or Seminole soccer, please log on to the official athletic site for the Florida State University Department of Athletics at www.seminoles.com.