Oct. 1, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - Things have been going pretty well for the 21st-ranked Seminole soccer team lately. The Tribe (5-4-1, 1-0-0) has won four in a row and is one win away from tying the school-record win streak. They are 1-0-0 in the ACC for the third straight year. They have had a player chosen to a national team of the week for the third straight week and they have won back-to-back games versus top 25 opponents. Tonight FSU travels to USF (4-3-1) to face a Bulls team they have never lost to (5-0-1) and have shutout the last three times the teams have met in Tampa. Any chance Florida State is going to get caught looking ahead to this weekend's match-up versus No. 4 Virginia?
"Nobody better be looking past a very good South Florida team," said head coach Patrick Baker. "Our staff has not mentioned our next opponent one time. All we have done is focus on South Florida. We have prepared for USF just like we did for Ole Miss, Maryland and Miami. We take every game very seriously and this year we have very little margin for error after the hole we dug for ourselves. Due to that, I think this group has a different focus than any other year. The team wants to take care of the business at hand and then move on to the next game. They aren't going to get caught looking ahead."
"Our whole focus has been on USF this week. We know there is a conference game this weekend but nobody has even mentioned Virginia," said Ratliff.
The Seminoles know they need to remain focused on USF for a couple of reasons. First, the Bulls are on a win streak of their own with three straight victories. Second, despite the 5-0-1 series advantage, Florida State has never beaten USF by more than one goal. The teams have gone to overtime twice and the last time they played in Tampa, FSU needed a 62nd minute goal to squeeze out a 1-0 win.
"I think the games are so close because it is an in-state rivalry," said Kristin Boyce. "Every team in the state is striving to be the best and that plays a big role in how close the games are. It is a big game for them and it is a big game for us as well. You can't overlook anyone in college soccer these days. Every game can go either way and you just have to look at the scores around the country to figure that out. We have to come out with a lot of energy and give the maximum effort if we want to win."
Baker has made winning games versus in-state teams a priority since he took over the program. The team is 21-2-0 since 2000 against teams from the state of Florida and 10-2-0 on the road in those games. The only two road losses in the state have both come in Gainesville at the hands of the Gators. Despite those two losses, since 1999 FSU is 3-3 versus UF and has a winning record against the other six teams within the state that FSU has played.
"Winning games versus in-state teams is always a goal for us," said Amber Tollefson. "South Florida always gives us all we can handle. They fight so hard every time we play them. Winning games inside the state is important to both teams and you can tell that by how close the score is every year."
Both teams are entering the match with a confidence borne out of long winning streaks. The Bulls have defeated 2002 NCAA Tournament team Charlotte, Louisville and Cincinnati by a combined score of 7-2 during their three game win streak. The Seminoles have won four straight, outscored those opponents 17-4 and have back-to-back wins over ranked schools.
"It is exciting that we have been able to win four games straight and have the opportunity to tie a school record with our fifth in a row," said Ratliff. "There has definitely been something going on around here since the San Diego State game. We just want to go to USF and try to build on the momentum we have."
"There is a lot of confidence among this group right now. Anytime you put some wins together, it helps. We had a couple of decisive wins versus Miami and San Diego State and we beat a couple of nationally ranked teams in Ole Miss and Maryland back-to-back. That was a first for our program so we are excited about those things," said Baker. "We felt we would be in a much different position at this point of the season but this is where we are at. We have to put our hard hats on and go to work on the road. It won't be easy tonight versus a very good and confident South Florida team."
This is the first mid-week game of the season for Florida State. The Seminoles have played exclusively on Friday and Sunday for the first four weeks of the year. With three more weekday games scheduled in the second half of the season, the Seminoles will need to get used to a different type of schedule as far as practice and recovery time goes.
"The whole rhythm now changes. We have been Friday and Sunday the first month and now we switch it up," said Baker. "I know from my standpoint with the new substitution rule, I like playing mid-week better. It allows for more recovery time between games. You don't have to worry about saving legs for a game two days later. That is the most unique thing this week."
The last three times FSU has played USF in Tampa, they have won by identical 1-0 scores. The Seminole defense has yet to record its first shutout of the season this year but has been playing much better as of late. After allowing an average of two goals a game in the first three contests, the last six teams FSU has faced have been held to just one goal.
"The defense has played pretty well as of late both collectively and individually," said Kelly Rowland, a member of this week's Soccer America Team of the Week. "Everyone has stepped up and we have come together as a group and played really well. We have a new found confidence due to this win streak and the success of the defense.
"When we saw how well the offense was doing, I think it sparked us to match their level of play. We were determined to get better and everyone is feeling a lot more comfortable. Marion (Cagle) has also stepped in and done a great job."
Live stats of tonight's 7:00 p.m. match versus South Florida will be available on www.seminoles.con courtesy of the USF Sports Information Office. For the link to live stats, FSU soccer game notes, photo galleries and game stories, please log on to the official athletic website for Florida State university.