Oct. 5, 2006
College Park, MD - The third-ranked FSU soccer team returns to ACC play tonight on the road when they travel to Ludwig Field to take on the Maryland Terrapins. The Seminoles (8-1-1, 2-1-1) are unbeaten in their last three ACC matches and are just a half game out of second place. Maryland (4-6-1, 0-3-0) is the only team in the conference yet to win an ACC game.
Florida State has had success versus the Terrapins as of late. Florida State is 4-0-1 versus Maryland in the last five ACC meetings. The last time FSU lost a regular season game to the Terps was in 2000 in College Park. FSU's current senior class has never lost to the Terps in their careers and overall FSU is 7-6-1 all-time in the series making Maryland one of just two original ACC teams FSU has winning records against.
"This is an ACC game and we pride ourselves on playing well in the conference," said senior Kelly Rowland. "We have had some success as of late versus Maryland but it is just a matter of us trying to play well every time out in conference. We go out with the same attitude every game and that is to go after a win."
The Seminoles are 1-1 on the road this season in ACC games losing 2-1 to North Carolina and beating NC State 2-0. Florida State is 8-5-3 since the 2002 season when playing ACC games away from home. The Seminoles were 2-9-2 the four seasons before 2002 when they had to travel to a conference opponent's park.
"In Tallahassee when we play at home we feel more comfortable," said first-year midfielder Iraia Iturregi. "We get great home crowds and it is easier to play. When you go on the road in the ACC it is much harder. The competition is so good and the fans are against you. You are tired from the travel and playing on a field you don't know. Especially for the newcomers because everything is so new to us when we travel on the road."
If the Seminoles hope to get a result Thursday night, they will once again rely on their defense. Florida State is in the midst of its best defensive season. In 2005, FSU set a single season record for shutouts (11) and GAA (0.86). It was the third straight year in which the Seminoles bested their GAA record and the second straight year in which the team broke the shutout record. At the rate FSU is going, those numbers will fall again. Right now the Seminoles GAA is 0.59, which is way ahead of the all-time record of 0.86. FSU is also on pace to break the single season shutout record. This season Florida State has recorded a clean sheet versus 50% of its opponents, which is ahead of the 44% of the opponents FSU blanked in its record-setting 2005 season.
What's most amazing about the performance of the defense this year is that two of the four members of the Seminole backline were not starters in 2005 and one wasn't even on the team. On top of that a third starter, Sarah Wagenfuhr missed all of preseason and the first three games of the season while playing in the FIFA U-20 World Championships. The fact that the group has come together so quickly and played so well is a key to the Seminoles early success.
"I think the best thing we have is communication," said Wagenfuhr. "We always listen to each other and respect what each other have to say. Communication is the key. We have also gotten to know one another off the field and that has helped.
"Playing with the national team, we trade people out all the time so that has made my adjustment to new players in the back much easier. It is hard to miss preseason and the first three games and then jump right into games versus Florida and North Carolina. The communication we have developed has made it an easy transition."
The stellar play of the defense and goalkeeper Ali Mims has allowed the FSU offense an opportunity to adjust to its new personnel. While things haven't clicked as quickly as they did in the back, the team's attack is showing signs of getting on the same page. FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian thought the offense played its best game of the season last time out versus Virginia Tech. Although the team produced just two goals in the win, the attack was dangerous all afternoon up until the 86th minute when Mami Yamaguchi scored the game-winner.
Yamaguchi's continued development is one of the most promising aspects of the FSU attack. Yamaguchi already has more goals in 10 games this season than she had in 24 games in 2005. With her game-winner versus the Hokies, Yamaguchi has three goals on the year compared to two all of last season. Last year she had just one game-winner. This year Yamaguchi has doubled that number with game-winners versus Portland and Virginia Tech.
"I feel more comfortable this year and I am playing with confidence," said Yamaguchi. "I now understand the style we want to play and the players around me. It took time to get to know each player's different strengths. Everything is just much easier compared to last year."
With two game-winners, you could say the sophomore has been at her best when it counts but that really doesn't tell the whole story. Yamaguchi has five career goals of which 60% have been game-winners, another 60% have come in ACC games and another 60% have come in the 80th minute or later. Her goal versus defending National Champions Portland completed FSU's comeback from a 1-0 deficit at halftime and ended the Pilots' 26-game unbeaten streak. Her first game-winner came in overtime versus Duke in 2005. In 34 career starts, Yamaguchi has recorded either a game-winning goal or assist in seven games. That means the sophomore has had a hand in 25% of Florida State's victories since she stepped on the pitch last fall. The game-winning goals and assists have come in some huge contests. Five of Yamaguchi's seven game-winners have come versus ranked opponents.
"I don't know why my goals seem to come at big points in a match," said Yamaguchi. "I am just so glad that I can score important goals for my team. I am always thinking positively that I am going to score when I get a chance. Sometimes I get a little lucky, sometimes it isn't but I am always looking to score."
Tonight's match with Maryland is slated for a 7:00 p.m. start. The game will be played at Ludwig Field on the campus of the University of Maryland. Fans can follow all the action on Game Tracker. For information on Game Tracker or the FSU soccer team log on to the official website for Florida State athletics at Seminoles.com.