Nov. 10, 2006
Tallahassee, FL - The first round of the NCAA Tournament has been good to the Florida State soccer team. The Seminoles have never lost in the first game of the postseason tournament but that doesn't mean the team has advanced every season. In six previous NCAA Tournament trips the Seminoles have gone 5-0-1 in their first NCAA game. The lone tie came in 2004 versus Boston College. That year the Seminoles were coming off a College Cup appearance but were eliminated in a shootout by the Eagles in their first match. This season FSU (14-3-4) will open the NCAA Tournament once again coming off a College Cup appearance when they face A-Sun champion Jacksonville (11-9-1) at 5:30 p.m. Friday night at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
"Obviously what happened in 2004 is in the back of the seniors minds," said Kelly Rowland. "Going to the College Cup one year and getting knocked out in the first round the next was not a good experience. I don't want that to happen again. We are focused on Jacksonville and preparing the best we can to be ready to play. We don't want a repeat of what happened the last time we came off a College Cup season."
Unlike 2004, the Seminoles will open the tournament at home this year but against an opponent that is just as dangerous. Jacksonville comes to Tallahassee fresh off a stunning run through the A-Sun Tournament where the Dolphins pulled off three upsets in less than three days to become the first No. 5 seed in A-Sun history to capture the conference's automatic bid. Jacksonville beat No. 4 seed East Tennessee State, No. 1 seed Kennesaw State and No. 2 seed Stetson. Two of the three wins came in overtime.
"Credit to Jacksonville," said FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian. "They got hot at the end of the year. They must be playing very well to go through their conference tournament winning three games in 48 hours. That is a credit to the staff and their players. We know they are not going to come in here and just lay down and play dead. They are going to come in here fully prepared to give us everything we can handle in hopes of moving into the second round. We will be equally prepared for them as they are for us."
This is the second time FSU and JU will meet in just 18 days. On October 24 the Dolphins came to Tallahassee and lost 3-0 to FSU. The Seminoles recorded a school record 42 shots in that match versus the Dolphins but led just 1-0 until the 69th minute. Jacksonville goalkeeper Michelle Kmiotek had a career day versus heavy Florida State pressure saving 17 shots. The Seminoles held a one-sided edge statistically in all categories taking 12 corners to none for JU, taking 42 shots to one and putting 17 on frame compared to none for JU. The victory extended FSU's win streak to nine games versus the Dolphins dating back to 1999. The Seminoles have not surrendered a goal to Jacksonville in the last 347:57 and have outscored JU 15-0 in the last three seasons.
"Last year we came out and played FAU and it ended up being quite a tough game," said All-ACC First Team selection Selin Kuralay. "No one really anticipated it being that much of a fight. This year we need to come out every game and not underestimate our opponent, respecting them. It is a knockout tournament and every team is going to come out like it is their last game of the season. We need to have that same attitude. We have to be ready to play from the very beginning. We can't be complacent at all. That is important. We can't think of anyone but Jacksonville. They deserve our respect and we will give it to them."
While the Seminoles lost in their conference championship game on Sunday, the team's run to the final has inspired confidence more than anything else. FSU forced overtime with No. 1 North Carolina after taking a 1-0 second half lead on the Tar Heels. Despite losing on a golden goal, the week in Cary, NC has left Florida State feeling confident entering the NCAA Tournament.
"Last week's run at the ACC Championships will be a positive for us," said Rowland. "We had a pretty good week of soccer. I think the OT game with Carolina could have been the best game we played all season. That gives us some momentum even though it was a loss. The team spirit is very good right now."
On top of the run to the ACC Championship, the Seminoles feel prepared for the start of the NCAA Tournament based on their competition as of late. When FSU takes the field versus Jacksonville Friday night it will be the team's eighth straight game versus an NCAA Tournament team. Since beating Miami 2-0 October 15, Florida State's next seven games were all played against teams that were invited to the NCAA's. On October 19 FSU faced Wake Forest (a No. 3 seed), then Duke, Jacksonville, Clemson, Duke, Wake Forest and No. 1 seed North Carolina. Florida State posted a 3-2-2 record in those seven matches losing to Duke and North Carolina.
"I think playing in the ACC is great preparation for the NCAA Tournament," said Rowland. "The level of competition we have faced has prepared us. We have to fight every week in the ACC and you see that with seven of the 10 teams in the NCAA's. After coming off a good weekend at the ACC Tournament where we went to overtime in the championship game, hopefully that confidence will carry over to the NCAA Tournament."
Florida State's preparation for the tournament goes beyond the last seven games. Along with six other ACC teams, FSU played three non-conference opponents who made the NCAA Tournament field in Portland, Jacksonville and Florida. Florida State played a whopping 12 games versus the NCAA Tournament field trailing only North Carolina and Santa Clara who played 15 and 14 respectively. Of the nine teams than played 11 or more games versus the NCAA field, five were from the ACC. Overall, only 14 of the 64 NCAA Tournament teams played double digit games versus the field and of those teams only North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame, Santa Clara, Tennessee and Penn State had records above .500 in those games. Florida State, North Carolina and Santa Clara are the only schools in America with 12 or more games versus the field that posted a record above .500 in those games.
"I think we are battle tested," said FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian. "We have played against an awful lot of very good teams in and out of conference this year. Whoever it is we meet in the tournament, starting with Jacksonville, our kids will have seen a lot of good opponents. I think we will be ready. Our fight will be good. Our commitment to go out and compete will be there on Friday. If that is the case, we have a chance to be successful."
The 2006 NCAA Tournament in Tallahassee, FL opens Friday at 5:30 p.m. with Florida State and Jacksonville. The tournament continues at 8:00 p.m. when Auburn and Cal meet. The winner's will face off Sunday at 1:00 p.m. with a trip to the round of 16 on the line. Ticket information for the 2006 NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament in Tallahassee is available on-line at Seminoles.com or by calling (850) 644-1830. Fans outside of Tallahassee can call toll free at 1-888-FSUNoLE. The first 200 Florida State students with a valid FSU ID card will be admitted free to the Seminole's match.