Nov. 9, 2003
CARY, N.C. - In the closest ACC final since 1988, the unanimous No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (21-0-0) used an 86th minute penalty kick to end No. 9 Florida State's upset bid. The second-seeded Tribe led 1-0 and then 2-1 at half, marking the first time a team led the Heels at half since the 2002 College Cup, before US National Team Player Cat Reddick put the Heels ahead for good at 3-2 with four minutes remaining on a penalty kick. The penalty was awarded after a hand ball in the penalty box.
"I want to congratulate Anson (Dorrance), his staff and players on another ACC Championship," said head coach Patrick Baker. "I thought we did a lot of good things today and stuck to the same game plan that we employed at Fetzer last week but were probably a little more successful today. We created chances and capitalized on set pieces. The hand ball was a good call by the official but I wish the game could have ended a little differently."
"I don't recall any championship games ever being decided by a penalty kick," said North Carolina coach Dorrance. "I think this was the toughest of the 15 ACC Title games we have played."
The Seminole's two goals were the most scored against UNC in an ACC Final since 1994 and it marks the second time in 2003 FSU has lost by just one goal to the undefeated Tar Heels. The last time a team played Carolina within two goals in an ACC final was in 1988 when NC State tied UNC 1-1 and won the ACC Title in penalty kicks. Since that game, UNC has gone on to win 16 consecutive conference crowns.
"We are thrilled to win the ACC Championship versus a superb Florida State team," said Dorrance. "That was a very exciting game and I can't remember an ACC final that had as much drama and where we were behind for an extended period. I congratulate Florida State. They have a fine team and a wonderful coaching staff. It was a thrill to be a part of such an excellent soccer game.
"The thing that impressed me about Florida State is that they fought as hard as our kids did. That is something we can usually rely on for separation. I thought they matched us. The 50-50 game was fairly even and that is a credit to Florida State. That is an aspect of the game we usually dominate. Our personality players were probably the margin of difference in a very close game."
All five goals in the ACC Championship Final came off set pieces as two free kicks, two corner kicks and a penalty kick accounted for all the goals. Scoring off set pieces was nothing new for Florida State who scored five goals in the ACC Tournament and four came of set pieces. And in 180 minutes of play versus UNC this year, the Tribe didn't allow the nation's top scoring side to record one goal in the run of play.
"For us we won both of our games at the ACC Tournament off set pieces. Carolina beat us in Chapel Hill this year off a set piece. They are a huge factor and today they (UNC) scored all three of their goals on set pieces today," said Baker. "I think North Carolina understands the importance of them and we sure do as well. In 2000 when we beat Carolina, we scored on a PK, off a corner kick and from a free kick.
"If you look at how dynamic North Carolina is up top if they are only scoring goals off set pieces, it says a lot about our team," said Baker. "We haven't given up a straight-on breakaway goal in 180 minutes against them. I think that wouldn't be the case for a lot of the others teams in the country if they had to face Carolina twice in a week."
The Tar Heels came into Sunday's ACC Final with a shutout streak that extended for over 540 minutes and they had won those six games by an average score of 4-0. In their 15 ACC Tournament finals, UNC had an average margin of victory of more than three goals every time out.
"A lot of people didn't think we could stay within a goal of North Carolina again and we were up 2-1 for a good bit of time today," said Baker. "We played to our strengths and tried to give ourselves a chance in the last two games versus North Carolina. We gave up the game-winner in the 68th minute a week ago and gave up the game-winner today with five minutes to go. We aren't getting smacked 6-0 or 7-0 like other teams who play them."
"Florida State is a great team and I think there is a chance we could see them again because of how good they are," said Lindsay Tarpley. "Winning 3-2 in the final against a great team like Florida State showed the depth and talent of this team (North Carolina)."
Florida State probably played one of its best halves ever against Carolina to start the match. During the first 45:00 FSU had tripled the number of corners they had in the entire 90 minutes during the team's first match of the season and they limited UNC to just eight shots.
Just seven minutes in the Seminoles jumped on top. Amber Tollefson's corner kick was cleared out of the penalty box to India Trotter. The ACC All-Freshman team member lofted a pass over the top of the defense, which North Carolina keeper Aly Winget charged but she couldn't control the pass. Freshman Kelly Rowland was there to head the goal in.
Just six minutes later the Tar Heels equalized. Cat Reddick launched a free kick into the Tribe's 18. All-ACC Tournament keeper Joy McKenzie charged but lost the ball in the sun and Maggie Tomecka was there to put it into the empty net.
In the 28th minute FSU continued to go forward and a foul against Leah Gallegos about 25 yards from goal resulted in another Seminole set piece. Katie Beal sent a dangerous ball to the back post and Camie Bybee made an unbelievable play to keep the ball from crossing over the endline. She not only kept it alive but she put it back in front of the net where Rowland was waiting to finish the chance into another empty net.
Rowland scored both of FSU's goals giving her three for the tournament. She is the only FSU player to ever score a goal in two games of a single ACC Tournament despite entering the weekend with just one career goal. The Wallingford, PA native was overlooked for ACC honors but was one of the finalists for tournament MVP after a stellar tournament.
The game moved to half with FSU holding on to the 2-1 lead. It was the first time Carolina trailed going into the half since the 2002 College Cup when they were eliminated by Santa Clara.
As dangerous as UNC is, the Tribe back four and McKenzie did a great job of once again limiting the Heels from scoring in the first 45 minutes. In the two games between the teams, FSU allowed just one first half goal to UNC. The Heels had outscored their previous nine opponents 40-6 and had won their first two ACC Tournament games by a combined score of 12-3.
"We feel great with Joy (McKenzie) in goal, it is a travesty she wasn't named first or second team All-ACC," said Baker. "We have done more from a shutout and defending standpoint within the ACC in the last month than we had done in the history if our program. With Katie Beal and Kelly Rowland anchoring our defense and T (Teresa Rivera) and Marion Cagle, we have a tremendous chance to be successful. Even without our defensive leader Kristin Boyce who went down against Clemson, I think we matched up well with North Carolina today."
"I have amazing defenders around me and they gave everything they had," said McKenzie. "There are a lot of nerves and they (UNC) will get their chances. I thought we did a pretty good job of limiting a tremendous offense today."
The Heels ratcheted up their attack in the second half out shooting FSU 9-2 and holding a 6-1 edge in corners. Just 5:13 into the second half the pressure resulted in an equalizer. Kendall Fletcher's third goal of the year was the result of a corner that the Tribe couldn't clear out of danger.
"I went into the locker room at halftime and started writing down everything we needed to correct. After 6 or 7 minutes the entire blackboard was filled," said Dorrance. "I was surprised that we were able to score so early in the half."
Carolina continued to apply the majority of the pressure in the second period as they went in search of the game-winner. They seemed to have it in the 79th minute. Alyssa Ramsey got in front of the FSU goal about eight yards away. She blasted a shot that McKenzie smothered to preserve the tie. The junior made three saves and played her second brilliant game against the Heels in nine days.
"Carolina has a mentality that you can feel when you are on the field with them," said McKenzie. "It's a diehard mentality where they come at the goal and when they do, they come with all that they have. That is how Carolina is."
With time winding down and the Tribe seemingly ready to send the game into overtime, a fluke hand ball by All-ACC Tournament team selection Katie Beal opened the door for UNC. The inadvertent penalty led to Reddick's game winner at 85:46 as she sent a brilliant strike past a diving McKenzie who chose the correct side but couldn't get to a perfect PK.
"It happened so fast and I didn't even know it was a hand ball," said an upset Beal after the game. "It was unintentional, unlucky but those are the breaks sometimes."
The Tribe will gather back in Tallahassee Monday at 4:00 p.m. to find out if they will be named a host site for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The selection show will be broadcast on ESPN News and the Seminoles are expected to make their fourth straight appearance in the tournament and now seem to be in the running for a national top 16 seed.
For more information on the 2003 ACC Championships final and the Seminole soccer team, please log on to www.seminoles.com, the official athletic department website for Florida State University.
NOTES: Four Seminoles were named to the All-ACC Tournament team marking the most in team history. Kelly Rowland, Katie Beal, Joy McKenzie and Leah Gallegos were all honored. McKenzie was the only goalkeeper to make the 11-player team.
2003 ACC All-Tournament Team
Casey McCluskey - Duke
Katie Beal - Florida State
Leah Gallegos - Florida State
Joy McKenzie - Florida State
Kelly Rowland - Florida State
Kimmy Francis - Maryland
Heather O'Reilly - North Carolina
Alyssa Ramsey - North Carolina
Cat Reddick - North Carolina
Lindsay Tarpley - North Carolina (MVP)
Kacey White - North Carolina