Aug. 26, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - Famed soccer publication Soccer America released its 2003 preseason poll Tuesday and the Florida State soccer team found itself among the top15 programs in the nation for the third time this preseason. The Tribe checked in at No. 13 equaling where they began the 2002 season in the Soccer America poll. This is FSU's third straight preseason ranking from the magazine, which has been around for over 30 years.
Florida State is now starting the season in the top 15 of all three polls that have been released; Soccer Times has not released its poll yet. The Tribe is ranked 12th by SoccerBuzz and 15th in the National Soccer Coaches of America (NSCAA) poll. If FSU is in the top 15 of the Times poll, it will mark the first-ever consensus top 15 preseason ranking for the program.
"It is just amazing that a short time ago we weren't even a regionally ranked team," said head coach Patrick Baker. "We have now put some years together where we are not only starting in the top 20 but finishing there also, which is most important. It is a credit to our players first and foremost, our administration and our coaching staff. We are excited people feel this way about this team and we are hoping we can perform like a nationally ranked team throughout the year."
Baker knows there can be some negatives that come with being a preseason top 15 team. Last year, FSU garnered its highest-ever preseason ranking, No. 10 from SoccerBuzz, and then proceeded to start the season 3-2-2.
"Sometimes a preseason ranking brings more expectations but nobody could expect more from this team than we do of ourselves," said Baker. "People expect more out of you when you are ranked but we are still an extremely young program and a young team this year. That is a potential pitfall. Also, being ranked does make you more of a target. If you are able to stay ranked, you become a big game on more team's schedules. It takes some maturity to deal with that. We have improved in that sense every year.
"One of the positives is that people think highly of your program. That is where we want to be; we want to be thought of as one of the better teams in the country. "
As proud as he is of the team's preseason recognition, Baker has never focused on polls or used a national ranking as motivation. His goals are the same every year; finish above .500, get into the top half of the ACC standings and get into the NCAA Tournament.
"It (the preseason ranking) is a great thing for your team because it makes the players feel good but we try to educate them and have them not read too much into it," said Baker. "We have shared with our group that our goals are the same as always and have nothing to do with national rankings. It has everything to do with trying to play good soccer and ultimately trying to find a way into the NCAA Tournament."
Seven of FSU's opponents are ranked in the Soccer America poll, including the Tribe's two opening weekend opponents. Southern Cal checks in at No. 21 and Penn State is ranked eighth. Four other ACC teams are ranked including North Carolina, which garnered its first No. 1 ranking of the preseason.
The Seminoles open the season with the biggest opening weekend in team history. This weekend's games versus USC and Penn State easily make up the most difficult opening weekend ever at FSU. The Tribe has never opened the season with back-to-back games versus Top 20 teams like they will this year. The only time FSU has faced two higher ranked non-conference opponents was when they faced eventual College Cup teams Santa Clara and Portland in one weekend during the 2001 season.
Florida State opens the season versus the Lady Trojans at 7:00 p.m. Friday, August 29, 2003 at the Seminole Soccer Complex. They then turn around and face 2002 College Cup participant Penn State at noon Sunday, August 31. There is no admission charge for either game and the Tribe will be looking to break the record for opening day attendance set last year when 954 fans came out Friday night and a record 1526 fans showed up over the weekend.
For more information on the 2003 Seminole soccer team, please visit www.seminoles.com, the official athletic website for Florida State University.