April 29, 2004
Tallahassee, FL - The last calendar year has been pretty special for the Florida State University women's soccer team. The squad finished the year ranked in the top four, played in the final four at the 2004 College Cup and played for an ACC Championship as well. Now they will cap the amazing season with a 13 day trip to Australia where they will face off with the Australian Olympic team three times as they prepare for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece.
"For about seven years I have been trying to go on this trip to Australia. A good friend of mine at William & Mary has taken his team on two occasions. The first time was just so good he went back four years later," said FSU head coach Patrick Baker. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The week after the College Cup a private donor stepped up and graciously offered the resources for everybody to go on the trip."
While the trip to Australia has been in the works for some time, the added bonus of three games with a team that has qualified for the 2004 Olympics is an unexpected surprise. The experience of playing the Australian National Team in magnificent stadiums in front of large crowds may prove to be just as memorable as the sightseeing and surfing for the Seminole players.
"We were scheduled to play the Australian National Team once while we were over there as they prepare for the Greece Olympics," said Baker. "They had some games in Europe fall through and without us knowing they looked at our itinerary and figured out where we were going to be. Now they are going to use us as a way to spread the awareness of the team prior to the Olympics. We will play a three game series with them now and will be playing in some fantastic venues with great crowd support. As much as the trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity, getting to play against one the best women's soccer teams in the world three times will just add to that experience.
"It is going to be an uphill battle but it gets me so excited thinking about it. We were on a conference call yesterday and we were talking with our tour manager. It got me so juiced up to hear some of the things that are going to happen when we are out there. There is a little bit of fear that we will get smacked pretty good but it says a lot about the perception of our program that the national team is willing to give up three play dates to face Florida State. Hopefully we can play and compete. I think we can especially if we are at full strength. I am not saying we'll win but we can compete for stretches of the game."
Playing and extra training time is a huge bonus for a team that is looking for a return trip to the College Cup in 2004 but Baker hopes the trip will be a cultural experience the players take with them through the rest of their lives. The team will visit Sydney, Canberra, the Gold Coast, Brisbane and South Standbroke Island. The Tribe will get an opportunity to surf, visit the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, explore the waterfalls of Springbrook National Park and visit the Australia rain forest.
"This is such a great opportunity to go somewhere many of these players would never had a chance to experience had it not been for college athletics," said Baker. "Because school is over, I hope we will also be able to focus more on soccer and continue to improve. We get to step out and train 10 days prior to departure, which other teams don't have, and we have to use that to our advantage. We are going to Australia to train and play against great competition and we have to take advantage of this.
"The level of competition is going to stretch and test us. That is what this team needs. In my opinion we weren't able to go to the west coast this spring, partly due to our trip to Australia, so now we have a chance to keep experimenting against a very high level. Maybe we get to do the one thing we couldn't do this past spring and that is play with the 10 starters returning from the 2003 final four team and just add one player. That may happen during the trip."
After arriving in Australia May 6, the team will play its first game of the trip May 8. The Seminoles will open with the first of three games versus the Australian National Team at the Australian Institute of Sport. The Seminoles return to the field Tuesday, May 11 to take on the Queensland Academy Side at AZN Stadium in Brisbane. Then the Seminoles complete their series with the national side with two games in a Gold Coast venue that has yet to be determined May 13 and May 15.
Check back to Seminoles.com for updates from the Tribe's trip through Australia and results from their four matches.