Nov. 17, 2006
Tallahassee, FL - For the second time in a week Florida State will play an NCAA Tournament game versus an opponent the team faced in last year's tournament. The Seminoles (16-3-4) will host Illinois (16-7) at the Seminole Soccer Complex Sunday at 1:00 p.m. FSU will be looking to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament for the third time in the last four years.
"I think there is an advantage to seeing a team before because we know how they play but they know how we play as well," said Soccer Buzz National Player of the Year finalist Katrin Schmidt. "I don't really think last year's meeting will be a big factor in this year's game. We will approach this game like we have approached all our games this year. It is really the only way you can prepare correctly."
Last season the two teams met in the second round of the tournament in a game played at the University of Florida. FSU jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Fighting Illini before giving up a goal in the 76th-minute and holding on for the win. It was the only time the two schools have ever faced in women's soccer.
"I think every team is so different from year to year," said defender Sarah Wagenfuhr. "They may be wearing the same uniform as the group we saw in the NCAA Tournament last year but it is a completely different team. We are different this year too. We have to just come out in the first 10 minutes and try to put our mark on the game like we would do versus any opponent."
As different as the teams may be from this time last year so are the coaching staffs. Last season Eric Bell was on the sidelines for the University of Illinois. This time around the former Fighting Illini assistant will be coaching for FSU rather than against them.
"It think it will help us a little bit," said Bell of his four years at Illinois. "Things have changed somewhat. I know most of the personnel but there are some new players on the team we are still finding information about. We are doing our best to get all the information we can.
"It sure helps," said FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian about Eric Bell's Illinois ties. "We prepare pretty diligently for all of our opponents. With Eric knowing a lot of the personnel it makes it a little easier but they are a much different team this year than last year. They've changed an awful lot of things including their staff since last year. Eric's presence here is a big value to us in all kinds of ways and certainly in preparation for this game it does help."
The Seminoles are hosting the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season but for the first time in program history FSU has been home for all three of their NCAA Tournament games. Florida State is in the midst of an 18-game unbeaten streak at the Seminole Soccer Complex where the team has posted a 16-0-2 record.
"It is absolutely fantastic," said Krikorian about hosting at the Seminole Soccer Complex. "Our regular season and our performance in the ACC afforded us the opportunity to play at home. We have been a very consistent team here in Tallahassee. Our fan support is fantastic and we have the best field in the country to play on. It is a big advantage to have our players sleeping in their own beds, going to class and living a normal everyday life."
The home field advantage paid off opening weekend as FSU beat Jacksonville and Cal in a three-day span. The Seminoles scored nine goals in the two games, which was more than they had scored in the six games leading up to the NCAA Tournament.
"We are a pretty confident team right now," said Schmidt. "We have played a lot better in the last few games especially in the NCAA Tournament. It seems like we are peaking at the right time and that breeds confidence."
"Our mentality is a little different at this point of the season because we know if we lose we are out," said freshman Becky Edwards. "Our concentration has been better in the NCAA Tournament. I think that has been the biggest change for us."
The Seminole defense continued its stellar play allowing just one goal in the two matches opening weekend. The offense though broke out of its shell and scored early and often in the two NCAA Tournament matches. Versus JU the Seminoles scored the earliest NCAA Tournament goal in program history just 3:09 into the match. Then versus Cal the team streaked out to a 3-0 lead in the first 27 minutes of that match before Cal closed the gap at 3-1 in the second half.
"The early lead versus Cal made everybody more confident," said Edwards. "I know coming into the second half that changed a little bit. After they scored the early goal, we continued to fight and that was a positive sign.
"I think we all have confidence in each other and know that our teammates will get the job done," said Wagenfuhr. "It makes life easier when everyone is playing well at the same time but as a defense we always knew what this team was capable of offensively."
Illinois comes into the match as one of the hottest teams in the country. The Fighting Illini is 14-2 over the last 16 games and dispatched St. Louis 4-1 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a game played at St. Louis. Illinois has scored 11 goals in the last five games and like FSU, played for their conference championship.
"We have to play the way we have been over the past couple of weekends," said Bell of what the Seminoles will need to do to get a result versus Illinois. "We have to move the ball, be organized defensively and we need to do well with our chances."
"We have to continue on the same path we have been on the last couple of weeks if we want to get a result Sunday," said Krikorian. "If we come out ready and prepared to compete from the start and set a high tempo in the game, I think that will be a benefit to us. We have done a much better job recently in finishing our chances and that will be a key as well. If we are tight in our defending and opportunistic in the attack we should give ourselves a chance."
On top of playing at home, the Seminoles will rely on the preparation they received over the last month. Since beating Miami 2-0 October 15, FSU has played nine straight games versus teams that were invited to the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Six of those games were versus ACC Teams, which comprise five of the last 16 teams standing in the NCAA Tournament.
"I think that the ACC Tournament helped us tremendously," said freshman Onnie Trusty. "We played three NCAA Tournament teams that week including North Carolina. It helped us come out prepared for the NCAA Tournament."
Sunday's third round match will be broadcast live by SUN Sports and there is also a free Internet radio broadcast available. Tickets for the game are available on line at Seminoles.com or by calling the Seminole Athletic Ticket Office at (850) 644-1830 or 1-888-FSU-NoLE.