Sept. 20, 2003
Tallahassee, FL - It is hard to imagine a regular season game at the Seminole Soccer Complex with as many storylines as Sunday's showdown between No. 21 Ole Miss (7-0-0) and Florida State (3-4-0). A win for the Rebels would keep their seven-game winning streak alive, continue to validate the Rebels as a program on the rise and give head coach Steve Holeman his 100th career coaching victory. It is also Ole Miss' first chance to get revenge for FSU ending its season in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
"Any team who gets a chance to play somebody who ended their season...well let me put it this way. If we played UConn, who knocked us out of the Sweet 16, I don't think I would have to say much to get my team up for that game," said head coach Patrick Baker. "When they are getting ready to face us and see that Sweet 16 banner on the scoreboard, I am sure they will be thinking that they were one of the teams in that run."
For Florida State, the game is the Tribe's fourth versus a top 25 team and offers the squad a chance to continue their trek back to .500. A win would breath new life into the 2003 Seminoles as they would not only defeat a top 25 team but they would win their third game in a row and adding to all that, the game will be shown live on the Sunshine Network for everyone in the south to see.
"We are going out there Sunday with one goal and that is to win," said India Trotter. "A win would get us to the .500 mark but it will be difficult. We have gained a lot of confidence the last two games but we know how good Ole Miss is. It will take an extraordinary effort for us to dig out a win."
The Tribe is entering the Ole Miss game after a huge win Friday night in which they scored six goals in a span of 21:03 and went on to rout in-state rival Miami (4-4-0) 7-1. The seven goals were the most scored by an FSU team in the regular season since 1996 and the six first half goals established a new FSU record.
"I told our players to enjoy the big Miami win but now it is time to shift gears and get your focus on an undefeated Ole Miss team," said Baker. "They are where we want to be. They have the undefeated record and the national ranking this year. We haven't accomplished anything yet. We have to keep doing what we have been doing and Ole Miss is next up on the schedule."
The game couldn't come at a better time for Florida State as the team has exploded for 13 goals in the last two games and allowed just two goals, both late in blow out wins. The Tribe has been setting offensive records and then shattering them a game later.
In the first five games of 2003, FSU players combined to post 17 points, in the last two they have tallied 37. In fact, Camie Bybee and Julia Schnugg alone have combined for 17 points in just the last two games. The Tribe has more than doubled their goals from six in the first five games to 13 in the last two. Assists have gone up as well as the Tribe has 11 in the last two games compared to five in the opening five matches. Only two Seminoles had more than two points after five games to start the year. In the last two games five players have posted at least three points each.
That offensive production has built up the confidence of both the offense and the defense.
"The way the offense is playing encourages us as a defense and makes us want to match their level," said Kristin Boyce. "If our forwards can produce they way they have, there is no reason we can't hold ourselves to the same level in the back. The way the offense has been performing though, we would give up a goal any day of the week for six and seven goals a game. A 7-1 win is better than a 1-0 win any day."
"We score six goals versus San Diego State and then give up a late goal leading 6-0. Fair enough," said Baker. "Then we go out and build up a 6-0 halftime lead over Miami, extend it to 7-0 and allow another late goal when we are resting a lot of our starters. How things have changed. A week ago we were playing just for a win. Now we are excited about what we are doing. Individual players have some renewed confidence. We tweaked the system a little bit and that is benefiting a lot of players. A week ago it wasn't and now it is. Hopefully that trend continues."
While the offense has been stealing the spotlight as of late, the Florida State back line and goalkeeper Joy McKenzie have committed themselves to getting better after allowing an average of two goals a game through the first five matches of the season. The unit has responded the last two games especially. The shift started with a new attitude and coincided with freshman Kelly Rowland's move from the right side into the center of the FSU defense. Since then the team has cut its goals allowed in half. The last two games, Florida State carried shutouts into the last seven minutes of blowout wins. With primarily back-ups on the field, the Tribe missed two shutouts by allowing goals with 6:45 and 5:46 left in the last two games.
Joy McKenzie has also played a big role in the turnaround. She has not only been coming up with the big save but she is making more of an impact in organizing the defense too. McKenzie has posted a stellar 1.00 GAA the last two games and her overall GAA has fallen from a high of 2.15 to 1.67.
"We are going out and trying to continue to build on what we have done the last two games," said Kristin Boyce. "Defensively, we go out every time and make getting a shutout our goal. That won't be any different Sunday, or next week or next month. We have been getting closer and closer to holding a team out of the net each of the last two games."
The Tribe will have a tough task ahead of them as Ole Miss is in the midst of a record-setting winning streak to open a season. The Rebels are averaging over four goals a game and have allowed an astounding two goals all season. They have out shot their opponents by almost 100 shots and they are giving up under two corner kicks a game. They also are coming off a win over then-No. 25 Missouri last week.
"Ole Miss has picked up right where they left off last season," said Baker. "They are on a great run. They are full of confidence. They have a great attitude. They defend well. They score a lot of goals and don't allow many. We are going to have to play really well Sunday but by judging what I have seen from our team the last two games, I know they will be ready."
After the worst start in school history at 1-3, the Seminoles have gone 2-1 in their last three games and the team is starting to click and finish the numerous chances they created in the first four games but didn't capitalize on. Although FSU has had more success the last few years, the Tribe see themselves as the ones with something to prove in the finale of the 2003 Nike Seminole Classic.
"What is the worst that can happen? Ole Miss is nationally ranked and undefeated they are supposed to win but we are going to do everything it takes to try and upset them," said Gallegos. "We don't want to lose anymore. We have experienced that and we don't want to go back there. We need this win and we are going to work our butts off to get it against a very good opponent."
"We are excited and this will be an opportunity for us to show the soccer world that we are the same Florida State that has gone to three straight NCAA Tournaments," said Katie Beal. "Hopefully we will come out with a lot of energy after some of us got to get a little bit of rest versus Miami Friday. We need to be ready for Ole Miss because they are undefeated and a great team."
The Florida State/Ole Miss match will be preceded by a match-up between Jacksonville and Miami at 11:30 a.m. The two games Sunday are part of the 2003 Nike Seminole Classic and both matches are free. For more information on the tournament, the Florida State soccer team or Florida State athletic programs in general, please visit FSU's official home on the web at www.seminoles.com.