Aug. 30, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - After opening the season with a one goal loss to No. 19 USC Friday, No. 12 Florida State will look to bounce back against the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions of Penn State (0-1-0) Sunday at noon. The Tribe (0-1-0) has lost back-to-back regular season games just once since 2000 and they will try to avoid that fate against the one of the highest-ranked non-conference team to ever play at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
"We can't change what happened Friday night but we can learn from that," said head coach Patrick Baker. "We need to be more prepared for a great opponent in Penn State. They have enjoyed so much success in their conference, region and nationally so it will be a huge challenge for us."
Both FSU and PSU are coming off season opening losses to teams that came into the game ranked lower in the polls. The Nittany Lions lost in Gainesville Friday night to No. 21 Florida. After a trip to the 2002 College Cup, PSU will be fighting to avoid losing two games in a row after playing in the national semifinals. Florida State has only started a season 0-2 once in nine years and that came in 1999.
"Both teams are coming off a 2-1 loss. We both are in a situation that I wouldn't call a 'must win' but it sure would be nice to get out of the first weekend with a 1-1 record against two nationally ranked teams," said Baker. "Knowing our team over the last few years, we have usually responded pretty well after a loss. That doesn't mean we will win but I think you will see a better effort put forth than we had Sunday. That will enhance our chances to be successful."
The FSU offense will need better decision making Sunday after managing just one goal in the opener. The Tribe offense is without two-time All-ACC forward Cindy Schofield who graduated in 2002 and is still trying to get its timing down with new faces in the line-up and a new system in place.
"We had opportunities versus USC to play balls in behind the defense but we weren't as refined as we should have been. Our wide players had opportunities to take on the defense and they chose not to. We would have two options on attacking runs and chose the one that we probably shouldn't have. We didn't make the decisions we should have that would put our players in position to challenge their defense" said Baker. "We are going to work on that next week but all we can do before the Penn State game is show that to the girls on tape and hope they create the same type of chances and make better decisions."
Penn State features three attacking players that averaged 12 goals and 32 points a piece in 2002. They are led by SoccerBuzz preseason national Player of the Year Joanna Lohman who tallied PSU's lone goal versus the Gators Friday night. Forwards Heidi Drummond and Tiffany Weimer lead an offense that will be one of the most dangerous the Florida State defense will see in 2003.
"They play a three front and are loaded with talent up top so it will be a huge challenge for us," said Katie Beal. "We did pretty well last night but we still let in two goals. We weren't happy about that but we will work harder and get better. We just need to pressure the other teams a little more and clean things up in the back."
Baker was not pleased that his squad gave up two goals Friday night but he was pleased with the way his experienced defense played overall. The Tribe did not give up a goal in the run of play as both Trojan goals came off deflections and scrambles.
"After watching tape, I think our back four did a nice job," said Baker. "They (USC) had a set piece goal off a scramble and the second goal came from a midfield turnover. I was pleased with the defense and thought they did a very good job of limiting quality opportunities. The challenge now is to step out and do that against another good team in Penn State. Their ability up top against our ability to defend will be one of the key things to watch."
"We did a pretty good job as a unit defensively Friday night especially winning first time balls and that will be a key to our success Sunday versus Penn State," said Kristin Boyce. "We will be facing a very talented team so we have to be aware of our shape and spacing because they are very good on the attack."
The one exception in the experienced FSU starting defense Friday was true freshman Kelly Rowland. The seven year regional Olympic Development Program (ODP) team member got her first start Friday night and will get a chance to play against a Lion team from her home state of Pennsylvania on Sunday. Rowland was heavily recruited by PSU and is familiar with many Penn State players.
"It is going to be very exciting for me since I know some of their players," said Rowland. "Considering how things turned out Friday, I am dying to get back out there. Making that first start was amazing. You just look around and see the huge crowd and you can't help but get excited. It was nerve-racking until I got that first touch on the ball. The college game is a lot more physical than I thought and I am pretty beat up today. You also have to learn to rely on your teammates more also because the talent level around you is so high."
Florida State features three freshmen from the Keystone State and overall, five Seminole newcomers played in the USC loss. Julia Schnugg, India Trotter and Rowland all made the first starts of their career. Six of FSU's 11 starters Friday had one year of experience or less but Baker isn't using that as an excuse for some of the mistakes Friday night.
"Four of our starting 11 made their first ever starts Friday and we had another two sophomores start so over half of our line-up was relatively inexperienced. They are all very capable, they can compete at this level and we have been able to do that the last three years and now we are trying to take that next step," said Baker. "I think they are ready, at least I hope they are. We need to step out Sunday afternoon and prove we are ready."
Sunday's Penn State/Florida State match-up will take place at the Seminole Soccer Complex and is slated for a noon start. There is no admission charge and the match is one of the most anticipated non-conference games to be played in Tallahassee this year. If you need more information on the Florida State soccer team, please visit our official home on the web at www.seminoles.com.