Sept. 7, 2006
Tallahassee, FL - Friday night Florida State and Florida will meet for the 14th time in program history. The two schools, separated by just 150 miles, are rivals on every playing field but the annual contest played on the soccer pitch has risen to one of the top games in college soccer each and every year. Once again both teams come into the game ranked and both schools also are once again coming off a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
"You hear about the Florida State/Florida rivalry from the time you are little when you grow up in the state," said Holly Peltzer. "It is always there. It seems like I have heard about this rivalry forever."
Whenever FSU and Florida play anything, there is always going to be a fierceness between the teams but the rivalry in soccer really wasn't competitive for the first five years. After the Gators won the first five meetings between the schools, FSU finally broke through in 2000. FSU then beat the Gators again that year in the NCAA Tournament. Since the 2000 season opener, FSU has gone 5-3 versus their biggest rival.
"The rivalry has become more competitive because it has become more of a true rivalry the last six years," said Ali Mims. "Playing in it for several years, it is nice to know that it is now competitive and the playing field has leveled. In the past, there was never any need for extra motivation when you were playing Florida and that is still the case but now there is more balance between the teams. Having been through the ups and downs, the wins and losses, it is always a fun game because the rivalry is now so big on the soccer field as well."
Last season the rivalry was a new experience for then-first year head coach Mark Krikorian. He brought his Seminoles into Gainesville for the first time and got an up close look at what it means to be a part of a Florida State/Florida game.
"I thought it was a great atmosphere and a game between two very strong programs," said Krikorian. "They had a great crowd and it was a wonderful game versus two good teams. I have seen after being here for a year now, that when Florida State and Florida meet in any sport that is what you should expect."
The experience wasn't just a new one for Krikorian, who has coached in the college game and had previous experiences of in collegiate rivalries. That wasn't the case for All-American Selin Kuralay. The Australian really had no idea what to expect going into last year's game but after scoring two goals versus the Gators in 2005, she has a better idea this season.
"I didn't really know much about the rivalry going into this game last year," said Kuralay. "Know I understand it more and know that this is always going to be a tough game. Both teams are very competitive and we know it is a big game for both schools."
While the rivalry was new to many Seminoles, when you talk Florida State/Florida it is always about the players who grew up in Florida. The teams combine to have 26 Florida players on their roster and for the native Floridians this game is even more special. That was the case last season for FSU's Holly Peltzer. The sub came off the bench and scored two second half goals to lead Florida State to the 4-2 victory.
"This is a big rivalry," said Peltzer. "Everybody on both sides gets up for this game. Last year I went in to the game and just tried to make a difference. I was able to score a couple of goals and those turned out to be the difference."
The Seminoles come into the game ranked No. 1 in the Soccer America poll and No. 2 in three other polls. Florida State is 3-0 on the season and with one more win FSU will have the second longest win streak to start a season. The Gators are 2-1-1 and are ranked as high as 16th. Florida opened the season with a tie against the defending National Champion Portland Pilots and then defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 6-1 in their last game.
"Watching UF play this year, they are an even better team than they were last season," said Kuralay. "They will be very difficult to compete against. What I have seen is that they are not only really athletic but they have added another component. They are playing much more tactically this season. That is going to be a huge test for us."
"I think Florida is a good team, they play good soccer and they are going to win a lot of games," said Krikorian. "They have good personnel all over the field. I think this is going to be a great game. I look forward to the competition Friday night."
This is just the second home game of the year for the Seminoles. In the home opener the second largest crowd in school history came out to see FSU upset Portland 2-1. While every FSU/UF game in Tallahassee has been played in front of at least 1,000 fans, only two of those matches rank among the top 10 in attendance at FSU. Just a few seasons ago four of the top seven crowds all-time in Tallahassee came in this series. That could all change Friday night though.
"I think it is fantastic when we have the stands packed," said Krikorian. "Our players can feel the energy and excitement. I hope Tallahassee shows up to support our team Friday and helps us get another win."
Friday night's game is set for an 8:00 p.m. start at the Seminole Soccer Complex. There is no admission charge for the game. Fans who are unable to attend can follow all the action on SUN Sports live telecast of the tilt. There will also be an Internet radio broadcast at Seminoles.com along with Game Tracker.