GAMEDAY CENTRAL: No. 22 Soccer Squares Off With 12th-Ranked Duke Tonight
See the Amber_Tollefson feature in today's Gameday Program |
Live Stats for today's match |
Game Notes and Weekly Release |
Current FSU Stats
Oct. 10, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - The 22nd-ranked Seminole soccer team returns home tonight after three straight road games and in the midst of playing five of six games away from Tallahassee. The stage couldn't be any bigger either as the Tribe faces a Duke squad (8-3-1, 1-1-0) that comes to the Seminole Soccer Complex with a consensus top 15 ranking and is scoring goals at a blistering pace. Florida State (7-5-0, 1-1-0) has won six of its last seven games and the last time they played at home it was against another ACC team when Maryland came to town with a top 15 ranking in hand but left on the short end of a 2-1 result.
"We are very excited to be back home. We are excited about playing under the lights on a Friday night. We are excited to face a very talented Duke team," said head coach Patrick Baker. "We are playing good soccer but so is everybody else in the ACC. Duke will provide a huge challenge and test for us."
After a 1-4 start, the Seminoles have returned to the nation's elite as they have resurfaced in the top 25 of the Soccer America poll the last two weeks. A win Friday night would be FSU's seventh win in the last eight games and most importantly move the Tribe to 2-1 in the conference, the second-best ACC start in team history. At 2-1, the Seminoles would also have a two-game lead over Maryland and a 1 1/2 game lead over NC State.
"It is really important to get to 2-1 in the conference especially since we are playing at home," said Amber Tollefson. "In the ACC, any day anything can happen. We have to make sure we come out and are prepared to fight to the end and scrap on every play. This is our house and we are going to have to protect it tonight."
"We were pretty close to getting our second win in Virginia last week and we let it slip away," said Baker. "You never know if you will get that chance again but knowing our group, I think they will respond and play well. The thing about this series the last three years is that it has been nip and tuck. They won late in 2000, we won in OT in 2001 and last year it went to overtime and ended in a tie. The difference between winning and losing this match-up is pretty small."
Since 1997, almost every game in the Duke/Florida State series has been a fight. The Seminoles have played more overtime games versus the Blue Devils than any other school and the last two games have both gone longer than 90 minutes. Last year the teams played to a 1-1 tie through double overtime. In 2001, the last time Duke traveled to Tallahassee, the Seminoles won a 3-2 overtime thriller. The game featured the first and only two-goal comeback in team history and was highlighted by a penalty kick save in overtime by FSU's Ali Mims.
"We've had a little bit of an upper hand the last two times we've met but the games have been so close," said Jez Ratliff. "My freshman year we won in overtime at home and last year we were able to tie the game after falling behind. The games are always so hard fought and have gone to overtime a bunch of times. It will come down to whoever finishes their chances. I am sure both teams will get good opportunities but it just depends on who takes advantage of them."
This is the second home ACC game for the Seminoles this season and with only three on the schedule, the importance of the game versus Duke is magnified. Since 2000, FSU is 10-11-2 against conference foes but 7-5-1 at the Seminole Soccer Complex. Winning ACC games at home is vital and the Tribe is well aware of that.
"We won our first home ACC game of the season with a win over Maryland," said Ratliff. "The three home conference games need to be a priority for us because it is so hard to win on the road in this conference. If we can get these three at home and try to pick off one on the road, we will put ourselves in great position for the ACC Tournament."
Duke is making its first trip of the season outside of the state of North Carolina and brings the 23rd-ranked offense in the nation with them to Florida State. The Blue Devils' 31 goals are just six short of their season total from 2002 and everyone is contributing. Eleven different players have scored a goal and 14 different players have recorded an assist. They will have to face an FSU defense that has recorded its first two shutouts of the season in the last three games and is allowing just one goal per game since the start of September.
"We have been doing pretty well as a group. We have posted our first two shutouts of the season in the last three games but there is still a lot of things we need to do better," said senior defender Kristin Boyce. "We have to keep a better focus during games, which will limit some of the breakdowns we have seen this year especially against a great offensive team like Duke."
The Tribe will have their hands full with the entire Duke attack but will be paying special attention to All-ACC first teamer Casey McCluskey. The junior midfielder has scored all three of the Blue Devils' goals versus Florida State since arriving in Durham in 2001. Both times she has faced FSU, McCluskey has put the Devils in front. She staked Duke to a 2-0 lead in 2001 and a 1-0 lead in last year's meeting.
"Duke has been scoring a lot of goals this season. I think they are second in the conference in goals and I know they are one of the highest-ranked teams we will see this year," said Boyce. "We have to be aware of everything going on as a defense. They have a great target player and attack with a three front, which means we will need a lot more concentration and more focus on what is going on in front of us."
On the other side of the ball, the Seminole attack has been rolling as well and is being fueled by striker Leah Gallegos and attacking midfielder Camie Bybee. In the last month the Florida State attack has climbed to 24th in the nation and third in the ACC thanks to Bybee and Gallegos. The two have combined for 13 goals and four assists in the last month. Since September 13, no team has held FSU below two goals and the Tribe has scored three or more goals five times in their last nine games. As good as the Seminole attack has been, Baker knows the game will come down to a battle between two talented midfields and FSU's ability to beat Icelandic National Team keeper Thora Helgadottir.
"I feel good about the fact we have been able to produce good quality chances and for the most part score goals but I think it will come down to our ability to contain their personality players in the attack," said Baker. "The midfield battle will be huge for both teams as well. If we can defend a little bit, there is a good chance for us. Also, if we get good chances, we are going to have to beat one of the best keepers in the country in Helgadottir."
The Seminoles will be looking for another big Friday night crowd at the soccer complex tonight where they have already seen two new top 10 crowds this season on Friday nights. The Tribe drew the fifth-largest crowd in history (1,116) versus Maryland and the seventh largest (1,084) versus Miami. Last season, FSU set a school record by playing in front of three 1000-plus crowds. Six of FSU's top 10 all-time crowds have come out on Friday nights and FSU has won all six of those matches.
Game time is 7:00 p.m. and there is no admission charge for tonight's big ACC battle. If you can't make it to Tallahassee for the game, live stats will be available at the official athletic website for the FSU Department of Athletics at www.seminoles.com.