Nov. 10, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - Fresh off their second appearance in the ACC Championship final in three years, the sixth-ranked FSU soccer team (13-7-1, 4-2-1) was selected to host the first two rounds of NCAA Tournament play for the second year in a row. The Seminoles were tabbed a No. 11 seed marking the first time ever FSU has obtained a national seed in the tournament.
"We are really excited to be seeded 11th and get the chance to host again," said Katie Beal. "The bracket is tough but we feel we have played such a difficult schedule and that has prepared us for this tournament. We will be ready to play Friday."
"To be a national seed is a compliment to how hard our young ladies have worked, "said head coach Patrick Baker. "It is well documented how we started the season but to respond the way this group has down the stretch and be 12-3-1 in the last 16 with two loss by a goal to No. 1 Carolina on the road is special. The other loss came at Virginia where we were up 2-1 with 5:00 to go. It is remarkable but I think it is justified."
This is the Tribe's fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and they will open up play Friday at 7:00 p.m. versus Ivy League champion Dartmouth (9-5-2, 6-0-1). The Big Green is in the midst of a 10-game unbeaten streak and this is the sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament selection for Dartmouth.
"It is exciting as ever to see Florida State jump up on the screen and then see Tallahassee, FL as a host site. That feeling is never going to get old," said head coach Patrick Baker. "You feel like a massive amount of fireworks have just gone off inside of you. The excitement of being a part of the 64 and getting to host the first two rounds is great."
Florida State has advanced out of the NCAA Tournament first round for three straight years and is 5-3 overall in NCAA play with two trips to the Sweet 16. They will have their hands full with a Dartmouth side that has been to three Sweet 16's and made one Elite Eight appearance all since 1998.
"Dartmouth is a very good squad and one of a select few programs that has been to two of the last three Sweet 16's," said Baker. "They are an Ivy League power. They are continually dominating teams in the northeast. They are very well coached and they will be very well organized. On top of that they will have some personality players that can make a difference for them. We are glad we can host them here rather than go to Hanover and deal with the cold weather."
This will be just the third ever game for the Big Green versus an ACC opponent. Both of their previous ACC games were against North Carolina. In 1998, Dartmouth lost 3-0 to the Tar Heels in the Elite Eight. A year later the Big Green forced UNC into overtime where the Heels pulled out a 1-0 victory.
This will be Florida State's first ever game against an opponent from the Ivy League but it is very familiar territory for Baker. The fifth-year head coach was in charge of the women's soccer program at Pennsylvania for five seasons before coming to Florida State. His former assistant at FSU is also now the head coach at Penn who is in the Ivy League as well.
"It is special to play an Ivy League school. It is always that way when you leave a conference," said Baker. "We haven't had the opportunity to play an Ivy League school since I have been here. A number of the coaches have changed since I left but just hearing one of those Ivy League schools mentioned is special to me. It will be great to get to play them with this Florida State team after facing them so many years at Penn."
After making its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2000, the Seminoles are now postseason regulars and are hosting for just the second time ever. Big 12 Tournament champion Oklahoma State (11-4-3) and Auburn (13-3-3) will also be headed to Tallahassee. This is the second straight season the Tigers have been sent to Tallahassee and last season the two teams met in the Round of 32 with FSU winning 2-1.
"We have seen Auburn the last two years in the tournament and they are a great program but then we get some variety," said Baker. "Dartmouth is very talented and I know that having coached in that conference (Ivy League) for five years. Oklahoma State ran the gamut in the Big 12 championship and won their first crown ever. We are excited to host that group of great teams."
Florida State is 6-2-0 at home this season with wins over nationally ranked teams in Ole Miss, Maryland and Duke. They are 15-1-2 since 2000 at home on Friday nights and 1-0 on Friday nights in Tallahassee in the NCAA Tournament. That win came last year in a 2-0 result versus Ole Miss.
"It definitely helps to host because we have had success in front of our home crowd in the regular season and I think that carries over into the NCAA Tournament," said Jez Ratliff. "It will help to have the home crowd behind us and it is nice to play at a place where you are comfortable with the surroundings. I am glad the NCAA believed in us enough to host this year."
The Seminoles enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the nation's hottest teams. They have gone 12-3-1 in their last 16 outings and two of those losses came in one-goal games to No. 1 national seed North Carolina. The other was a 3-2 loss at No. 8 Virginia. After playing in the closest ACC Championship final in 15 years, a 3-2 loss to No. 1 UNC, the Tribe feels confident heading into the NCAA's.
"We played a great game in the ACC Tournament final against North Carolina and came a step closer to beating the greatest team in college sports," said Amber Tollefson. "We will draw from that. Thriving in the ACC Tournament gave us such great tournament experience as we played three teams in a week that are in the NCAA Tournament. We are confident right now and will continue to work hard."
"The success we have had in the last month is due to great team chemistry and that has been driving us," said Katie Beal. "We are so confident in one another right now."
Eleven of the last 14 games FSU played came against teams in the 2003 NCAA Tournament and FSU posted a 7-3-1 mark in those matches. Overall, FSU played 15 of its 21 games against the NCAA Tournament field and posted a 7-7-1 record in those matches. All seven FSU losses came to teams in the NCAA's and the Tribe also played seven games versus nationally seeded teams and seven of the eight ACC squads were selected for the tourney.
"Ever since our Maryland game we have played NCAA caliber games. Everyone in the ACC got in except for NC State," said Baker. "The last month and a half we have played the best and that really isn't different from any other conference season but the difference is the success we have had. This was our most successful ACC season ever. We are battle tested and tournament tough."
The biggest cheers of the night though came after comments by analyst Scott French of Soccer America. The veteran college soccer journalist lauded Florida State repeatedly for their play and even predicted the Seminoles might make another appearance in Cary, NC but this time at the College Cup.
"It is awesome to be a national seed, especially where we came form," said Ratliff. "We were ranked in every poll to start the year and now we have gained some of that attention back with the way we played. Scott French's comments on the selection show were really nice and it is great to see we are getting respected."
"His (Scott French) comments show that some people out there see something in this program that we have see all year," said Kelly Rowland.
Rowland was one of six FSU freshmen that got to experience the NCAA Tournament selection show for the first time. The whole process amazed the All-ACC Tournament defender.
"It was amazing to go through that process for my first time," said Rowland. "The possibilities for our team are limitless if we play to our potential. To hear Florida State mentioned on the broadcast as a College Cup contender was something I will never forget."
Ticket prices are $7.00 for adults and $5.00 for students (3-18) and anyone 50 or older. They can be purchased by calling the Seminole Athletic Ticket Office at (850) 644-1830 or toll free at 1-800-FSU NoLE. For more information on the 2003 NCAA Soccer Tournament, please log on to the official athletic website of Florida State University at www.seminoles.com
NCAA TOURNAMENT IN TALLAHASSEE
Friday, November 14 4:30 pm Auburn vs. Oklahoma State Friday, November 14 7:00 pm Dartmouth vs. Florida State Sunday, November 16 2:00 pm Auburn/OSU vs. FSU/Dartmouth
NOTE: After its impressive showing at the 2003 ACC Women's Soccer Championships, Florida State moved up in all three polls released today. Most impressively, FSU jumped to No. 6 in the latest Soccer America national poll. The ranking is the highest in the history of the program.