Sept. 2, 2011
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Senior Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It didn't take long to see exactly what the Florida State soccer program was missing last season.
It took less than an hour, in fact.
Fifty-two minutes into the Seminoles' 2011 season-opening match at No. 19 Oregon State, Tiffany McCarty fielded a pass from Jessica Price and broke a scoreless match with what turned out to be the game-winning goal. It was a familiar connection, yes, but it was one that hadn't been seen in a year after both McCarty and Price missed the entire 2010 season.
The goal served as the official return stamp on the dynamic duo's soccer-passport.
"It was really good to feel that connection again," Price said. "We played up top together in 2009 and did really well. That goal was special for both of us because it was just like, 'OK, we are back out here. Let's go.'"
Added McCarty: "It felt really good. As a forward, that's the dream if you missed time; to come back and make the game-winning goal."
The Seminoles made it to the Elite Eight for the sixth consecutive season last year despite their collective absence and game-winning ways. But how far could head coach Mark Krikorian's squad have gone if both McCarty and Price had not been forced to take medical redshirts?
FSU's goal scoring dipped from 67 total scores in 2009 to 45 goals a year later. A quick look at the statistics reveals a primary reason behind that scoring ripple: no McCarty and Price. The two combined for 33 total goals the last time they were both healthy in 2009.
"We missed them tremendously last season," senior Toni Pressley said. "Having them back both on and off the field is great. We know that they bring a whole new dynamic to the team. They can outrun people and dribble by people [and] they can receive the ball with their feet. Having them back and knowing that they bring a whole new set of qualities to our team is going to help us."
"I think last year there was a specific dynamic because a team changes when you lose players -- whether they are starters or not," McCarty said. "I think this year, we have a lot of younger players that are going to step up and play their roles. We have a lot more depth this year. Some of the younger players are getting their chances now and the veterans are playing their games. You combine mine and [Jessica's] return with the signing class and transfers and I think we can have a very good team."
While McCarty had the immediate chance to experience the relief that comes with scoring that first goal after missing time, Price didn't get to feel the same thing until this past weekend.
In the 'Noles' 5-0 drubbing of UNF last Sunday, Price accounted for three points in what was her first multi-point effort of the year. Her left-footed goal from the right side of the field soared over the goalie's outstretched hands and struck the top corner of the net in the 76th minute. It was Price's first goal since Nov. 20, 2009 when she knocked in the game-winner against Texas A&M that sent FSU to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
"I was a little bit relieved," Price said. "Just because that can be a lot of pressure for that to be your role to score goals for your team. That's something that I take responsibility for and want to do. I was just really happy to get that first one out of the way so I can continue to do my job."
Price's job has been that of a playmaker.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2009, the Libertyville, Ill. native led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring with 42 points (16 goals and 10 assists). Price even finished atop the ACC in game-winning goals with eight and was one of only three players in the entire league that finished in the top 10 in points, goals and assists.
"It was especially hard for me because I was doing so well right before I got hurt," Price said. "I was developing and getting better at a lot of things and seeing results quickly. So it was hard for me after that just to know that I had to start all over again. The hardest part was just knowing how far I had to go. But I stayed positive and just kept encouraging my teammates while I was sitting on the bench."
Joining her on the bench was McCarty, who was experiencing the same type of upward arc on the output chart before she was sidelined.
After earning ACC Freshman of the Year honors in 2008, McCarty finished the 2009 campaign as the league's top goal-scorer with 17 shots in the net. For her efforts that season, she became just the second FSU soccer player in history to be named the ACC's Offensive Player of the Year, joining former superstar Mami Yamaguchi.
Before she was forced to miss the entire 2010 season, McCarty was named to the MAC Herman Trophy Watch List and was named the No. 9 player in the Top Drawer Soccer Preseason Top 100 Women list.
"It was a rough year for me," said McCarty, who now enters the Marquette match as FSU's current leader in points and goals in the young season. "I just stayed positive. I told myself that if I came back and couldn't score goals the same way, I would at least try to be dangerous and create opportunities for my teammates and help us win. I didn't really expect to score right away but that's my job as a forward."
Now healthy and seemingly regaining the momentum that turned them into two of the top players in the nation, McCarty and Price are a lethal one-two punch on the field.
Off the field, they are closer than they've ever been. The year on the bench brought them closer together. They even became roommates recently.
"It's kind of funny because we developed a bond while we were both out now we have the bond of being roommates," McCarty said. "It was nice to have someone to laugh with and to cry with. It was just good to have someone there to help you relieve stress and then at the same time, have someone to pump you up. When I'm down, I'd help her and vice versa. It's been good."
"We had a lot of talks to together and we got a lot closer because we were both going through something that was difficult," Price added. "We both just tried to stay positive for our team and help each other out."