Sept. 11, 2003
Lawrence, KS - With a 3-1 win versus Jacksonville the last time they stepped out, the Florida State soccer team (1-3-0) is looking to start a streak of a different kind this weekend at the KUStore.com Crimson & Blue Invitational. The Seminoles, who ended a losing streak versus three top 15 teams to start the season, will attempt to put together a winning streak when they step out versus Kansas (4-1-0) Friday night at 6:00 p.m. EST.
"We are excited about the opportunity to play again. After getting that first win, you want to step out immediately and play so it has been hard waiting until Friday," said head coach Patrick Baker. "The good thing is that it has allowed us to get two great training sessions in."
"After the first three games, we had to take pride in moral victories. With the win in Jacksonville there is a renewed energy," said Amber Tollefson. "We have that first win under our belt now and are anxious to step out again."
This weekend's games versus Kansas and San Diego State will be the Tribe's third and fourth consecutive road games. The Seminoles are 1-1 so far on the road and know that .500 is in sight if they play well this weekend in Lawrence versus two good teams. Considering the Seminoles play 10 of their 18 games away from home, the team is stressing the importance of playing well on the road since it will be key to making a fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
"One of our goals is to play well on the road since we have so many away games. We want to get better each time out," said Tollefson. "Against Jacksonville we weren't as sharp in the final third as we want to be, our finishing wasn't great. We did get the win and that is what we are going to build on. Finding a way to get back to .500 is what we are shooting for. If we can get back to .500, we will have responded from three tough games to open the season but that won't be easy versus this weekend's competition."
While almost every coach in America will tell you that they prefer to play at home, the first plane trip of the year for FSU is being welcomed by many of the players. Midwesterners Camie Bybee, Jez Ratliff and Rachel McDowell will see friends and family as they play close to home for the first time during the regular season in their careers.
"I am looking forward to the trip because it is close to home (Colorado). I think the team is excited to get away from things and spend some time together as we continue to bond," said McDowell.
"The freshmen are now realizing that we aren't going to be going home for a while and this is the first time we have been away from our families for any extended period of time. There is an element of being a little homesick that's why it will be great for me to get closer to home and be around things that are familiar. I also get to see my best friend Danika Erickson (Kansas)."
Taking on schools from the Big 12 is nothing new for Florida State since Baker took over the program. This will be the sixth time Baker has led the Tribe versus a Big 12 school since 1999. In that span, FSU has posted a 2-2-1 record and they are 1-0-0 all-time versus the Jayhawks with a 4-1 win in Tallahassee, FL in 2001.
"Every year we have been here we have played a Big 12 school if not two games versus Big 12 teams," said Baker. "This year we have played or will play teams from the Big 10 (Penn State), Pac 10 (USC) and SEC (Florida and Ole Miss) as well. It is great to play another team from a powerful conference in Kansas Friday."
The Jayhawks are 4-1 on the season and their only loss came in a 3-2 match at Wisconsin. Kansas has outscored its opponents 13-5 and Caroline Smith, a sophomore who already holds the career goal record at KU, is leading the way with eight goals in just five games. To put that in perspective, only one Seminole scored more than eight goals the entire season in 2003
"Kansas is a very talented team. I really like Mark Francis as a person and I really rate him as a coach," said Baker. "He was our U-21 assistant coach with our national team that won the Nordic Cup this summer. He has an eye for talent. He knows how to train players and his teams are always prepared."
The Seminoles, who mustered two goals in the first three games, exceeded that total in just one outing versus the Dolphins their last time out. Forward and 2002 All-ACC rookie team member Leah Gallegos recorded her first two goals of the season and the Tribe offense continued to create dangerous opportunities. The improvement in the final third, which comes each game the team plays, was the difference for what will develop into a potent Seminole attack.
"I thought we did some very good things against Jacksonville. At times we were just a touch away from putting on a really great show. To be that close...I think that was the best we have ever played against JU," said Baker. "We created some great chances. We are starting to turn the corner a little bit when it comes to finishing. If we can continue to create chances, that is the ultimate thing. It really isn't about creating a ton of chances; it's about creating good scoring opportunities that our players can get on the end of."
Not only did the Florida State offense continue its progression versus the Dolphins, the Seminole defense came one free kick away from the team's first shutout of the season. After allowing two goals per game in the first three contests, the Seminole backline put together its most complete outing of the year and clamped down on the JU offense. The only Dolphin goal came on a set piece from about 20 yards out.
"We were disappointed we didn't get the shutout versus Jacksonville. We are working really hard and I thought the defense played well enough to get that first shutout of the year," said starting center back Teresa Rivera. "Ultimately, our goal as a group is to always shut our opponents out. Stopping the set piece goal is more of a mentality than it is poor tactics. It comes down to wanting to win the ball and clearing it out."
After facing Kansas, the Tribe will wrap-up tournament play Sunday, September 14 at 10:30 a.m. EST versus San Diego State. The Aztecs (1-2-0) are coming off their first win of the season and open the KUStore.com Crimson & Blue Invitational with UCF. For complete game coverage, log on to the official athletic website for Florida State University at www.seminoles.com.