Dec. 11, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - On the heels of a College Cup appearance and No. 4 final ranking in the coaches' poll, the Florida State soccer team received more accolades Tuesday. Four Seminoles were named to the National Soccer Coaches' Association (NSCAA) All-Southeast Region team. That is the largest Seminole contingent ever to garner NSCAA honors and was second most in the region behind Florida but tied with North Carolina.
Sophomore Leah Gallegos became the first FSU player in school history to be named a first team NSCAA All-Southeast Region team selection. Defender Katie Beal earned the first NSCAA honors of her career as she was named to the squad's second team. Defender Kristin Boyce and goalkeeper Joy McKenzie each were named to the third team. Overall, the ACC placed 14 of the 33 players on the three teams and no other conference had players from four schools make the team like the ACC (FSU, UNC, Clemson and Duke). Four of the top five schools in terms of all-region selections were from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I am excited for the individual players. Each had wonderful individual seasons that was part of the team's success," said head coach Patrick Baker. "We feel like we had one of the better teams in the regions and it is great to see some of our players finally be recognized.
"All four of those players have a tremendous work ethic and they really improved their games. For (Kristin) Boyce to be the only senior among that group, three of those players will have a chance to comeback and build on a great honor. Hopefully this will add to their desire to want to come back and be an even better player next season."
Gallegos, who had a stellar freshman campaign, burst on to the national scene in 2003. The Los Angeles, CA native led FSU in every offensive category except for assists. She set new Florida State single season records for goals (18), game-winning goals (7), golden goals (2), NCAA Tournament golden goals (2), multi-goal games in a season (5), shots (109) and shots on goal (60). She is the only player in FSU soccer history to be named to the SoccerBuzz and Soccer America Teams of the Week and ACC Player of the week in the same week and she has now done that twice.
"Leah (Gallegos) did what a lot of people can't do. She came back from a very good freshman year and responded with an even better sophomore year," said Baker. "Not only did she respond, she played at a whole different level. She became a true personality player. She is a handful up top and she proved that game-in and game-out. When she scored we won but there were a lot of other times when she did the little things that allowed us to be successful without getting a goal."
Gallegos led the ACC in game-winning goals and was second to MAC/Hermann Trophy finalist Lindsay Tarpley of North Carolina in goals, goals per game and shots. She was also in the top five in the ACC for points (fourth) and points per game (fifth). Among the MAC/Hermann Trophy semifinalists, Gallegos would have ranked fifth for goals and points and been second among the group for game-winning goals. No sophomore in FSU history has ever accumulated as many points, goals, shots or shots on goal as Gallegos has in her first two seasons. She already ranks fourth for career points at FSU, third for career goals, second for career shots on goal and second for career game-winning goals.
"I am very honored to be mentioned in the same class as the great players on that list," said Gallegos. "It is exciting to know that coaches around the region think that highly of me. Being the first Seminole to be named first team all-region feels good. I never expected myself to come in to a college program and win awards. I was just hoping on doing the best I could and hopefully make a difference. I just wanted to win a spot and not focus on awards."
While Gallegos was the only offensive player to make the squad, the Seminole defense was well represented after the unit's remarkable season. Three of the five starters in the back four and at keeper were honored by the NSCAA. The Tribe defense started out in 2003 allowing an average of two goals per game through the first five contests but allowed just 0.8 goals per game the rest of the way through ACC play and during runs to the ACC Championship finals and College Cup.
"For half of our back four and our goalkeeper to be recognized is tremendous," said Baker. "That was such a huge part of our success. As tough as it was to adjust at the beginning of the year, that unit became a strength for us and part of our identity. By the end of the year, it took something pretty special to stick the ball in the back of the net against us. Very few teams scored against us as a team or specifically against that group in the run of play. That spoke volumes about where they had come."
Beal, a junior center back is making her first appearance on an NSCAA all-region team but the standout Alexandria, VA native isn't a stranger to awards. In 2001, she was named a first-team freshman All-American by SoccerBuzz magazine and she has gotten better every year since. This year she had her most impressive season defensively and also became a huge threat for FSU on set pieces. Beal finished the year with six goals and seven assists both single season records for an FSU defender along with her 19 points. All six of her goals came of set pieces and her six goals are more than the entire FSU defense scored in 2002. Beal came into 2003 with no goals in her two-year career and just four assists but has established new career highs for goals, assists, points, shots and shots on goal. Had a career day with six points versus San Diego State scoring two goals and recording two assists. Finished the season with the third-most points, goals and assists on the team.
"This is a great honor and it's always nice to get awards but this is a credit to our entire team," said Beal. "I think individuals get recognized because of the entire team's success and your surrounding cast. That especially applies to our defense. Joy (McKenzie), Kristin (Boyce) and I got recognition because of the play of Marion (Cagle), T (Teresa Rivera) and our entire team defending well all year."
As good as Beal was offensively, what she did as the Tribe's leader in the backline was probably more amazing. The central defender was the glue that held together a defense that saw senior starter Kristin Boyce lost for the season due to injury, saw two new starters inserted into the line-up out wide and saw a rookie slid into the middle just five games into her collegiate career.
Despite all the constant shifting and changes, the 2003 Seminole defense allowed just five goals all year in ACC play, which was the third-fewest goals allowed in a conference season in ACC history. To put that amazing feat in perspective, National Champion North Carolina scored more goals than that in ACC contests versus Clemson and Wake Forest (6-0 and 6-1) this season. They also scored just one goal less than that in three other conference matches as they scored four goals against Duke, Maryland and NC State. The 2003 Seminole defense set the school record for ACC shutouts in a season and consecutive ACC shutouts with four. They also didn't allow a goal in ACC play for 447:34, a new school record as well. The Seminoles also finished tied with UNC for the ACC lead in conference shutouts.
Overall, the Seminoles allowed the fewest goals in a season in team history despite playing more games than any FSU team and playing against the nation's most-difficult schedule. The team's 1.01 GAA was the lowest ever and the Tribe established new single season records with nine shutouts, six consecutive shutouts and a shutout streak of 637:34 seconds.
"Katie Beal not only was a wonderful player but she organized a young defense that constantly saw change," said Baker. "That said so much about her leadership in the back and making others around her better."
As important as Beal was to the Tribe defense, senior left back Boyce played just as big of a role before her injury. One of the most-overlooked players in her four-year career, the Austin, TX native began to get the credit she deserved this year as a senior. She was named a 2003 All-ACC first team selection and had a stellar season before fracturing a bone in her ankle after scoring the game-winning goal at Clemson versus the Tigers. The senior played 83 games as FSU's left back since stepping on campus in 2000 and made 14 consecutive starts before her injury. She had scored three goals in her last four games and had a career-high two assists.
"Boyce was playing so well before her injury. Maybe she didn't play the whole season due to her injury but I think people saw where she has come from over the last four years," said Baker. "She has elevated her game and was playing wonderfully during her senior year. She was a big part of our team. I am very happy she got that reward this season."
"It is exciting to be recognized by other coaches," said Boyce. "It is a great accomplishment that three of our five starters in the defense were recognized as all-region selections. We turned things around as a group ever since we started 1-4. Things began to fall into place and I think my teammates who played in the back deserved to be recognized for an amazing season."
Baker called McKenzie's rise from recruited walk-on to one of the nation's top keepers one of the best stories in women's college soccer in 2003 and it is hard to argue with him. The Houston, TX native spent two seasons as FSU's third keeper before exploding onto the national scene this season. North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance pegged her as an All-American on his NSCAA ballot as she led the ACC in shutouts, GAA and save percentage in ACC contests. She set single season records and career records at FSU with her four consecutive ACC shutouts in 2003. She also established a new FSU record with her 0.32 GAA in conference play and 532:29 ACC shutout streak. She was the only goalkeeper to record a shutout in the ACC Championships and was named to the ACC All-Tournament team for her efforts.
"Joy's story is well documented but for her to go from a recruited walk-on as a freshman to an all-region keeper has to be one of the best soccer stories on the women's side this year," said Baker.
No keeper in FSU history had a better regular season than McKenzie. After a 0-3 start and a GAA of 2.15, McKenzie went 15-3-1 with a GAA of 0.75 through the College Cup. She established new Florida State records for wins (15), winning percentage (.738), GAA (0.92) and consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (739:22). Her shutout streak during the regular season was phenomenal and ended on the last day of the regular season in a 1-0 loss to North Carolina. Before that 63rd minute goal October 31, she hadn't allowed a goal since the fifth minute of the Maryland game September 26. Her 740-minute shutout was almost five times longer than her career minutes played coming into the 2003 season.
"It is an honor to be named to the all-region team. I never expected this," said McKenzie. "I just wanted to play coming into the year and to be given this type of accolade is an honor. To be one of just three keepers is amazing especially when you are mentioned in the same group as Thora Helgadottir and Megan Rivera. We played them both this year and I know how good they are. It is an amazing accomplishment for me and an unexpected one as well."