Oct. 31, 2003
Chapel Hill, NC - Due to a stellar defensive effort and another unbelievable keeping performance by junior Joy McKenzie, the ninth-ranked Seminole soccer team was dead even with the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (18-0-0, 7-0-0) for 67 minutes Friday night. The nation's No. 1 offense was held at bay by a Seminole defense that recorded six straight shutouts coming into Chapel Hill but the Heels found a way to keep their 45 home game unbeaten streak alive as UNC notched the 550th win in program history. Mary McDowell scored an opportunistic goal off a Cat Reddick free kick at 67:07 to send FSU (11-6-1, 4-2-1) to just its second loss since September 14.
"Carolina is as good as advertised," said head coach Patrick Baker. "I thought we prepared well for the match and I was very proud of our team. I thought we defended well. I don't think we gave Carolina too many clean looks at goal and we tried to contest everything. I was very pleased with our team's effort. To come to Fetzer Field and give ourselves a chance to win for 65 minutes is impressive."
"We are excited to win tonight and came through the regular season unscathed. As the season wore on we got better and better but we couldn't demonstrate that today against Florida State," said UNC head coach Anson Dorrance. "They also got better and better as the season wore on and we really couldn't separate ourselves tonight even though I thought we played well."
Despite the goal by McDowell, sister of FSU freshman Rachel McDowell, FSU keeper Joy McKenzie was unanimously mentioned as the star of the game as she tied a career high with eight saves. The keeper is just the fourth net minder this year and 24th in the last six seasons to hold UNC to a goal or fewer in a game.
"We could only score one against them and that is a credit to an absolutely brilliant performance by their goalkeeper (Joy McKenzie) but also due to great team organization," said Dorrance. "They have a great fighting spirit and I tip my hat to coach (Patrick) Baker, Robin Confer and the rest of his staff. Their coaching staff did the university a wonderful service tonight."
McKenzie, a junior from Houston, TX, wrapped up her first ever ACC campaign as a starter by allowing just two goals in conference play and she finished the year with the lowest GAA of any ACC keeper in conference play at 0.32. She also led the conference with four shutouts. For the year she finished the regular season with a school record 0.77 GAA.
"There is always a unique story on every team and one of our stories this year is Joy McKenzie," said Baker. "I will be really disappointed if she doesn't get some postseason accolades. I think we were all waiting to see what she did tonight against this UNC offense and she played remarkably well. She is a wonderful young lady off the field and she is very talented. She keeps improving every time out. To see her play the No. 1 team in the country and play that well, I thought that was remarkable."
The Heels dominated the game statistically holding a 23-4 edge in shots, a 14-1 edge in corners and a 9-3 edge in shots on goal but the Tribe defense was as tough to crack as ever Friday. The Seminole back four is on pace to allow the fewest goals in team history as they have given up just 18 so far in 2003. The 2000 squad holds the record with 23. Most amazingly, this years defense allowed just five goals in conference play, which is half of the previous record of 11 that was also set by the 2000 defense.
"It was hard for us to combine in the offensive half against their defense," said McDowell. "We didn't create many chances because we were trying to get stuck in all over the field. It was a messy game and we didn't slow the ball down as much as we usually do."
"As a team we defended really well and didn't give them a lot of easy chances," said Katie Beal. "Joy (McKenzie) stepped up and made some big saves. We weren't soft in the back like we have been in the past. They didn't create that many chances in the run of play and we proved to our selves we can compete."
McKenzie came up with numerous big saves with the biggest probably coming in the 47th minute with the scored still tied 0-0. A corner was played to the near post but the ball looked as if it had crossed the endline. A Carolina player was able to bring the ball back into play and put it right in front of the ACC's top goal scorer Lindsay Tarpley. The sophomore was just about six yards out at the near post but McKenzie corralled the point blank blast.
"I think Joy played really well. She made some key saves but it is tough having to face 23 shots," said Beal. "Having to make one spectacular save after another, she was tested tonight and passed with flying colors."
That wasn't the first chance for the Heels. Their best chance of the game before the goal came just 13 minutes in off an Alyssa Ramsey corner. The drive found Reddick at the back post where the US National Team member, fresh off her stint at the World Cup, blasted a header off the cross bar. North Caroina followed the rebound with a low drive to the far post but the shot missed its target as it sailed wide.
Florida State had its first serious chance at the 29 minute mark. Freshman and All-ACC Rookie of the Year candidate India Trotter slotted a ball through the UNC defense and onto the foot of Jez Ratliff. The junior was bending her run and ended up with the ball streaking to goal on the right flank. The UNC defense recovered well and was just able to get a piece of Ratliff's shot before it got on frame. "I saw India (Trotter) coming and I heard coach telling me to bend my run," said Ratliff. "I tried to get as wide as I could and get around Carmen Whatley their outside left back. I had to come back to the ball a little bit, I turned to the outside right and tried to get a shot off before their defenders closed down."
North Carolina continued to be around the Tribe goal mouth but the Seminole defense seemed to be there at almost every turn and freshman Kelly Rowland got into the act in the 57th minute. The Pennsylvania rookie blocked another shot from close range this one a header by McDowell. But the Colorado native wouldn't be denied later in the half.
McDowell's goal began with a Reddick free kick from about 40 yards out. The senior drove it into the box where McKenzie charged out. The junior keeper wasn't able to get enough of the ball to bring it in and it ended up getting deflected right at the feet of McDowell who buried it for her third goal of the year.
"I came out on the free kick and saw (Lindsay) Tarpley was completely unmarked at the six," said McKenzie. "I tried to block the initial shot and I couldn't get a handle on it and it died right at McDowell's feet. She just rammed it in the back of the net."
"One of these days one of those Cat Reddick free kicks is going to go in," said Dorrance. "The whole time it is terrifying for an opponent. I can feel the tension on the other bench every time she winds up to hit one. It is a great weapon for us. It is very intimidating."
The goal ended FSU's shutout streak at 633:34 and ended McKenzie's overall shutout streak at 739:22 and her ACC shutout streak at 532:29. Those are both new FSU records for the keeper and she is also the first Seminole keeper to ever finish the regular season leading the conference in shutouts and GAA in ACC play.
"I didn't know that I had preformed so well statistically in conference play. It is a great feeling," said McKenzie. "It is a credit to so many people that have helped me. It was a team effort and it is something I can probably look back on one day and be proud of.
"Tonight was fun for me except for the fact we didn't get the result. It is great to go into a hostile environment as the underdog," said Joy McKenzie. "A little of the pressure was off right from the start because we weren't expected to win. I was excited to play in a game like this. I wish I could have done better with the goal but it was an awesome experience."
Florida State continued to try and launch attacks against a Heel defense that is second nationally in GAA as FSU looked for the equalizer. In the 76th minute Leah Gallegos tried to get on the board as she looked to score on Aly Winget (18-0-0, 6-0-0). Gallegos, a sophomore, who is just behind Tarpley for the ACC lead in goals, got free at the top corner of the 18 on the right side. She went far post and forced Winget to make a diving save. The UNC keeper didn't field the ball cleanly but no Seminole was crashing the box to jump on the rebound.
Trotter had another opportunity just a minute later as she made the most dangerous run of the game for FSU. The Boca Raton, FL native carried the ball from midfield right down to the top of the 18 without being dispossessed. She fired a low, line drive to the far post that went wide of the post.
The shot was one of just four on the night for FSU, which is a season low and the first time the Tribe has been held to single digit shots all season. It was also a new season low for corner kicks as FSU took just one on the night.
"I think we stayed back as a team and didn't get forward as much as we should have," said Jez Ratliff. "When we did get forward it was just one or two people getting into the attack. We tried to force things way to much and that made it an easy night for their keeper. If you want to score against a team as good as North Carolina you have to commit more numbers to the attack. We had planned to do that but the game just didn't dictate it."
"I think we tried to put an effort into attacking them but we could have done a lot better," said Gallegos. "We didn't play to our potential offensively but you have to give them credit. Every time we tried to go forward their back three was there."
Carolina had one last great chance to double up the score with just three minutes left. Another Ramsey corner caused fits for the Tribe. This one was an in-swinger and driven to the back post. None of Ramsey's teammates were able to get a piece of it because the cross was bending in toward the side netting but just caught the post and bounced out.
"They (UNC) are fast. They are so dynamic and their touches were brilliant. I don't think I saw them take a bad touch except for the rare occasion. They are so clean," said McKenzie. "We got lucky a couple of time but as coach (Baker) says we bent but we didn't break most of the night. It was a great game and they deserve to be the No. 1 team in the country."
"Individually and collectively, that is probably the best group of players I have ever faced in my life," said Gallegos. "They have it all. They are multi-dimensional. They are fast, they have skill and they are smart players."
The Seminoles bid to become just the second ACC team to ever defeat Carolina at Fetzer field was ultimately unsuccessful as North Carolina moved to 232-7-4 at home. Despite the loss, the Tribe found some solace in the fact that UNC had outscored its six ACC opponents 27-3 before holding the Heels to just one goal on their home pitch. Carolina had scored at least four goals versus every ACC except Virginia who they beat 3-1.
"It is always difficult to play UNC and especially at the own field. Even though we lost, I think we played pretty well," said Beal. "We competed with them to the end and losing 1-0 to a team that good at their place is a confidence boost. We feel like we can compete with any team we have to place from this day out."
Even with the loss, FSU wrapped up its most successful ACC regular season in team history at 4-2-1 and are assured of finishing second in the conference. They also ended the regular season on a 10-2-1 run while allowing just eight goals in those 13 games.
"We went 10-2-1 down the stretch. One of the remarkable things is that when we played some great teams and started 1-4, we were still able to make up ground in our overall record with every game a must-win and doing it all inside the best women's soccer conference in the nation is amazing," said Baker. "That is a compliment to these players and how hard they have trained and preformed with their backs against the wall. I am so proud of them and excited about the possibilities as we enter the postseason."
The Seminoles return to action Wednesday, November 5 when they travel to Cary, NC for the opening round on the ACC Championships. Seedings for the tournament, which will be played at SAS Soccer Complex, are not final heading into the last weekend of conference play. North Carolina has locked up the top seed and FSU could be seeded as high as second but no worse than third. Tournament brackets will be available at www.seminoles.com, the official athletic department website for Florida State University.