Nov. 16, 2003
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Tallahassee, FL - Booking trip number three to the Sweet 16 was the toughest yet for the sixth-ranked Florida State soccer team. The Tribe needed 101 minutes before sophomore Leah Gallegos notched her single season record 17th goal sending FSU (15-7-1) to the round of 16 for the third time in the last four seasons. The 2-1 victory over No. 16 Auburn (14-4-3) was the first overtime postseason match in Florida State history but it was the second golden goal win of the year for the Tribe. The Seminoles under head coach Patrick Baker are now 7-1-8 all-time in extra time.
"It is a credit to coach (Patrick) Baker, his staff and our whole team and how hard we work," said Amber Tollefson. "It is a special thing. There are only 16 teams still playing and that is amazing to me. All the hard work has accumulated into this postseason. It is showing as I think we are playing our best soccer now. Not many people can say they have been a part of a team that has gone to the Sweet 16 in three of the last four years."
The win moved FSU to 7-3 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and set up a Round of 16 meeting with sixth-seeded West Virginia (17-3-2) next weekend. Senior co-captain Tollefson had a goal and an assist and Gallegos notched the 24th of her career in the victory. The loss ended the Tiger's second straight bid to make the school's first Sweet 16.
"In the past we have made it to the Sweet 16 and that is the standard that has been set," said Tollefson. "We played a really challenging Auburn team today but we wanted to take that next step. Auburn gave us a run for our money. To get back to the Sweet 16 is so special and a credit to this team."
For just the first time since October 4 Florida State entered the locker room trailing at half as they gave up just their second goal in the first half in more than six weeks. But Tollefson came out and equalized the game in record-setting fashion. Just 34 seconds into the half she made it 1-1. Tollefson then helped FSU win the game as well just over a minute into the second overtime. Her assists, the 23 of her career, which is a new FSU record, on Gallegos' record-setting 17th goal was the difference in the game.
` "I would like to congratulate Auburn on a wonderful season and a wonderful game," said Baker. "I thought we started off very well and had two great chances to be up 1-0 if not 2-0. Then somewhere in the middle, about 20 or 25 minutes in, the game started to change in favor of them (Auburn). That trend continued with a good goal by Sarah Steinman who is a very special player.
"I thought at halftime we came out and set a different type of tone. Amber (Tollefson), our lone playing senior, was brilliant to score the tying goal and then get the game-winning assist. I can't say enough about her as a person and a player and the individual effort she gave today. This is a compliment to our team. Kelly Rowland, Katie Beal, Marion (Cagle) and T (Teresa Rivera) in the back, Joy (McKenzie) was exceptional in goal. It was a great, great effort and we are very happy to be advancing to the Sweet 16."
This was the third straight year FSU and Auburn have crossed paths in the NCAA Tournament and it is the third time the Tribe has won. Florida State has now recorded five straight wins over the Tigers with the last two coming with a berth in the Round of 16 on the line. Of the 297 teams playing Division I soccer, Florida State is now one of just eight teams to advance to the third round three times in the last four years. Only Florida State, UCLA, Portland, Santa Clara, North Carolina, Texas A&M, Connecticut and Penn State have accomplished that feat with UCLA vying to join that group.
"This was such a great game. It is a shame anyone had to lose," said Auburn head coach Karen Hoppa. "I think Auburn and FSU are two teams that both deserve to be in the Sweet 16. Congratulations to coach Baker. He has a phenomenal team and they played a great game. I think we gave them a great game."
Florida State opened the game in impressive fashion as they came close to scoring twice in the first eight minutes. Tollefson hit the crossbar on a shot from a tough angle at the five minute mark and the rebound shot by Camie Bybee was blocked on its way to the net.
Three minutes later Bybee sent Julia Schnugg down the left side of the pitch by playing a great diagonal ball. Schnugg collected the pass and was in behind the defense and all alone with second team All-SEC keeper Megan Rivera. Gallegos was making a back post run at the same time but Schnugg's shot to the far post was blocked by the junior keeper.
"What we had been telling our players is that to beat Megan Rivera you just can't put it right at her," said Baker. "You are going to have to score something pretty dynamic."
The Tribe continued the attack until the middle of the period when Auburn started to win more of the 50/50 balls and do a better job of dictating the play. In the 30th minute they were rewarded with a goal.
The ball was played over the top of the FSU defense and into Steinman, the 2002 SEC Player of the Year. The junior's first touch went to goal and beat the defense. She fired a blast at the near post upper corner that keeper Joy McKenzie got a hand on but couldn't save.
"Marion (Cagle) had Steinman touch tight but the ball took a bad hop and she couldn't clear it out," said McKenzie. "It came out right to her feet at the top of the 18. I made the decision to go. I went, I got a hand on it but it wasn't enough to keep it out of the net."
"I have to give credit to Auburn because that was a great three front," said Cagle. "Our defense has done an outstanding job this year and that goes from the frontrunners all the way to the back. I just knew if we played like we are capable, they wouldn't get in behind us again."
It was the first time the Seminoles had fallen behind 1-0 that early in a game since September 26, a span of 50 days and 13 games. The last time the Tribe was staring a 1-0 deficit in the face before the clock hit 30:00 was September 26 when Maryland scored five minutes in a game in which FSU came back to win by a 2-1 score.
"After they scored that goal I was shocked. I don't remember falling behind in the first half since we were at Virginia," said Rowland. "We came together as a defense and said we needed to pick it up and I think that happened."
"This is the first time we have gone into half in as long as I can remember knowing we are losing and need to do something to change the complexion of the game," said Cagle. "There was no doubt in my mind that this team would respond. Obviously we did by scoring a minute into the half."
The last time FSU went into half trailing, they came out and scored two goals in just over 13 minutes versus Virginia. They didn't need nearly that long this time around. As soon as the opening whistle blew, there seemed to be a different energy level for FSU.
"Sometimes you hope you paint the right picture at halftime. The last time we were down at the half was Virginia and I went back to that," said Baker. "We came out of the gate in that second half and scored two very good goals. I didn't think we would score in 34 seconds but I was very happy we did.
"Right from the get-go there was a different edge for us. Actually, India (Trotter) did an unbelievable job and that was great individual effort. She solved two defenders on the dribble, picked her head up and flighted a great ball to the back post. With our wide players, we feel like we can get around the corner."
The goal came on a great piece of individual brilliance by Trotter. The freshman sent a great cross from the far right side of the pitch that just bent away from Rivera's out stretched arms. Tollefson jumped with Rivera and opportunistically knocked the service on frame but it caught the post and bounced out. The senior followed up her own rebound and put the goal in past a sliding defender.
"We won the ball initially on the sideline and I saw Amber (Tollefson) on the back post," said Trotter. "Coach kept telling us repeatedly at halftime that if we just switch the ball, play to feet then we could get a goal. I tried to get an early service in and Amber did a great job of tucking it."
"India had an amazing individual effort on the first goal and I was just glad to get it. It put us back to even and we could settle down and play our game," said Tollefson.
From that point a physical game became even more so as both teams were fighting for their tournament lives. The game was do or die and both teams played just like they were well aware of that.
"It was hit after hit today and it was very physical," said Cagle. "That is the second time we have faced a three front and we knew we had to stay tough. We didn't want to let anything get behind us and we were unfortunate on the first goal. We responded like true champions."
"Just thinking that this would be our last game, everyone had that thought," said Tollefson. "We didn't want it to end today. We didn't want this to be our last game and I think that is what caused a renewed energy."
Auburn's best chance to avoid overtime and extend its season came in the 63rd minute and it was Steinman again who looked to get the go-ahead goal. The Lilburn, GA native stepped over the ball to hold the defender and create some space for herself. As soon as she got a little daylight she fired a shot that a divining McKenzie blocked and then smothered before the Tigers got a chance at the rebound.
That save was one of just three McKenzie was forced to make. After the first half goal, she held Auburn off the board for 70:56 to record her 13th win of the season. That moves her into second place for the most wins by a Seminole keeper in one campaign.
"I am always hard on myself right after goals are scored. I just don't like giving them up," said McKenzie. "I just keep telling myself over and over that goals happen. I have a defense that will help me out and I have faith in them. I also have faith in the fact that I will give everything I have to stop that from happening."
Neither team could get much going in the first overtime period as both squads registered just one shot with neither being put on frame. As the second OT period began the Seminole players talked about being full of emotions but confident. They had lost just one OT game in their careers and the only win they had in OT in 2003 came on the same field on a Sunday versus another SEC squad in Ole Miss.
"That was heart attack worthy," said McKenzie. "There were a lot of things going through my head. I wanted someone to stick it. Of course the shootout was back there somewhere as well. I was hoping it wasn't going to come to that. It was crazy amount of emotions and everyone was so hyped up. We knew we were going to get our chances in the run of play."
Gallegos, who had five shots in the previous 100 minutes, has been the Tribe's go to player all year long when it comes to scoring goals but didn't register one in the 5-0 win over Dartmouth. She was being taken out of her game by a stingy Auburn defense that shutout 12 opponents in 2003 and that had allowed two or more goals just twice all season.
"They (Auburn) were an extremely physical and talented team and that made things a lot harder," said Gallegos. "I couldn't get past them individually on too many occasions. I had to change my style of play and look to distribute the ball more rather than taking on players."
"Coming out of halftime, Leah walked by me and I told her 'you are going to be there'," said Baker. "We said a lot of times that if we keep putting things in the box and in front of the net something will happen. Amber was a huge factor today. Leah was a huge factor today with the game-winner. If Leah is playing well and we are finding her at feet or into space, we are probably doing what we need to be because she means so much to our attack."
Those two players were the difference just 1:04 into the second overtime. Gallegos started the play with a shot that was blocked at the top of the 18 on the right side. Tollefson picked it up, dribbled past a defender and got endline. She launched a cross that was drawn far enough away from the goal mouth that Rivera couldn't come out but right on to the head of Gallegos.
"I just remember that the ball was a rebound off a shot and it was spinning backwards," said Tollefson. "I remember reading the flight of the ball and knowing how it would bounce. I called Jez off and my defender was side on. I just clipped it in and Leah was in amazing position."
"The goal kind of hit the side of my head and slid a little," said Leah Gallegos. "What a beautiful cross by Amber (Tollefson). It got frustrating having so many good chances and not putting them away. You have to put the frustration aside and keep going at it. The whole team pushed one another. Getting the goal was a big relief."
The 17th goal of the season for Gallegos tied the record set by Cindy Schofield in 2001. Gallegos now has more goals than any player if FSU history in their freshman and sophomore seasons. It was the sixth straight golden goal for Florida State that has come at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
"The thing that makes this goal special isn't the record it's that it sent us to the Sweet 16 and kept our season alive," said Gallegos. "It is special for me because it means Amber (Tollefson) and (Kristin) Boyce get to go to another Sweet 16."
The Seminoles advance to face No. 9 West Virginia in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The date, time and location for the game have not been set yet. As soon as information is available it will be posted at the official athletic site for the Florida State University Department of Athletics at www.seminoles.com.