Aug. 29, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - The 19th-ranked USC Trojans came to Tallahassee with a lot of streaks going against them. No. 12 Florida State had not lost a home game on a Friday night in five years. The Seminoles were a perfect 4-0-0 against ranked teams at home on a Friday night and they were on a three game unbeaten streak when it came to season openers. The Trojans (1-0-0) bucked all of those streaks as they opened the season with a 2-1 win over FSU (0-1-0) in front of 781 fans at the Seminole Soccer Complex Friday night.
"This is my first loss ever on a Friday at home and it hurts," said senior co-captain Amber Tollefson. "We had some really good sequences, we knocked it around very well and we were winning balls against taller girls. We picked it up in the second half but they wouldn't allow us back in it.
"We walked off the field tonight knowing we gave it our best. We didn't want to see that streak broken but it happens. I am proud of the way this team picked it up in the second half and we'll respond."
The Trojans used two goals in the span of six minutes in the first and second half to take the first-ever meeting between the teams. Jocelyn Hein and Ashley Casas scored the two USC goals and they were sandwiched around FSU junior Jez Ratliff's 44th minute goal. Ratliff's strike was the 12th of her career.
"I thought this was a great college soccer game but I was disappointed that we lost," said head coach Patrick Baker. "I thought we played well enough to win. The difference in the game was a couple of mistakes on our part that they took advantage of. We responded well to their first goal and created enough opportunities but we couldn't find a way to beat their keeper. (Julie Peterson) did very well."
Petersen, a junior, set a school record with eight shutouts last season and posted a 0.92 GAA. She picked up right where she left off in 2002 by holding the Seminole offense to just one goal.
The Trojans came out very strong in the first half and controlled the ball but neither team had a serious threat on the goal until the 22nd minute. Southern Cal's Jessica Edwards laced a shot from 18 yards out and straight down the middle that new starter Joy McKenzie punched over the crossbar and out of danger.
The Seminoles threatened Peterson for the first time in the 27th minute. Junior defender Katie Beal played a beautiful ball into Leah Gallegos down the middle of the pitch, splitting the defense. Gallegos got a shot off but there wasn't enough on it to beat Peterson.
Florida State almost broke on top in the 35th minute. Freshman India Trotter played fellow U-19 National Team member Julia Schnugg into space down the right sideline. She slotted a ball through the box and about eight yards from goal. Ratliff took a sliding stab at redirecting the ball on frame but just missed connecting.
With less than four minutes remaining in the half, USC took the lead off a deflection. The USC corner, one of seven they had in the half, was cleared by the Seminole defense but Hein was able to scoop up the deflection. She hit it far post beating a diving McKenzie.
"As many corner kicks as they had, we had just as many set pieces," said Baker talking about the 20 fouls USC committed against FSU. "That kind of balanced each other out. We can't give up seven corner kicks in the first half though because good teams will capitalize on those chances."
As much as Baker dislikes giving up goals in the last five minutes of the half ("Big Five Goals") he was just as pleased when the Tribe responded with a Big Five Goal of its own. Just 1:44 after the USC goal, FSU equalized in a similar fashion. Beal served another excellent free kick service into the box where the ball was pinged around by both teams before squirting to Ratliff. The Oklahoma native pounced on the ball and one-timed the shot past Peterson.
"Leah (Gallegos) was trying to get to it and it was hitting off people. I saw the goalie coming out and I was just trying to hit it as hard as I could so it would get through the mass of bodies," said Ratliff.
The goal was the first scored in a season-opener for FSU in almost 220 minutes after playing to a double overtime tie with Oregon State to open the 2002 season. The goal seemed to spring new life into FSU heading into the lockerrom at half.
Florida State couldn't sustain the momentum as USC scored another Big Five Goal as Casas broke the tie just 2:47 into the second half. The Trojans got free on the right side of the box and blasted a shot that was blocked by Seminole defender Teresa Rivera. Just like the previous two goals, the deflection wound up right at the feet of the junior from Mission Viejo, CA. She buried the shot at the far post.
"That was such a downer after just tying the game before half," said Ratliff. "India (Trotter) grabbed the ball and ran to the center after the first goal and we scored taking the momentum right back. Then they deflated us with that goal so quickly into the half."
"They got that second goal and they made it very difficult to play. Give them credit for that," said Baker. "There were a lot of fouls in the second half, which either hurt our rhythm or didn't allow us to get into a rhythm. That gave them numbers behind the ball and allowed them to remain organized. If the game were a little more wide open we may have had the chance to get that equalizer."
The USC fouls, 11 to 3 in the second half, continued to hinder any flow to the Tribe offense. The Seminoles, who held a 13-12 edge in shots, put half of their shots on frame and almost got even in the 58th minute. On another scramble in the box after an FSU corner, senior Kristin Boyce got her foot on a loose ball about five yards from goal at the near post. She fired a low shot but Peterson was once again true to the task.
The Trojans looked like they were going to build on their lead in the 85th minute as Edwards broke free on the right side of the field. She fired a blast to the near post that McKenzie, who was making the first start of her FSU career, punched away keeping Florida State in striking distance.
The Tribe was unable to muster another serious attack as the final piece seemed to elude them at times during the night. Florida State not only started three freshman and played five but McKenzie was also making her first collegiate start and it was the first time the Tribe had taken the field in a system other than a 4-4-2.
"We are playing the best system for our personnel and all of the players know that. We like the system and how it fits our personality," said Tollefson. "We had trouble tonight breaking down the final four. We just have to break that last line of defense and that will come together for us."
"We had the whole second half to get the equalizer and we were a bit unlucky but give USC credit for having something to do with that," said Ratliff.
Baker was happy with the way his experienced defense played Friday night. The backline led by senior co-captain Kristin Boyce, 2001 freshman All-American Beal, 2002 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year Teresa Rivera and freshman Kelly Rowland held up all night in front of McKenzie.
"I was very impressed with our back four. I know we gave up two goals but neither was their fault," said Baker. "I was very proud of the way they played. We have to tighten things up heading into Sunday. We can't turn the ball over but I am pleased with a lot of things just not the result."
Things don't get any easier for the Tribe as the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions come to Tallahassee for a Sunday game scheduled for 12:00 p.m. Penn State dropped a 2-1 result to No. 21 Florida Friday night and will face FSU for the first time in school history Sunday. The Tribe will look to rebound against a Lion's team that was in the 2002 College Cup.
"Traditionally we don't lose back-to-back games and obviously that will be something we try to fight against Sunday," said Ratliff. "It is going to be a rebound Sunday for us and we are going to have to give everything we have against a very good Penn State team."
"It is not about the losing, it's about the lessons learned," said Tollefson. "We need to re-group for a huge game versus one of the nation's top programs."
The Penn State game starts at noon and there is no admission charge at the Seminole Soccer Complex for regular season games. If you need more information on the Florida State soccer team, please visit our official home on the web at www.seminoles.com.