"I am very excited for our players in the program, our coaches and I am excited for the incoming class," said Baker. "A lot of people worked hard to make this class come together and we think it is a wonderful group. It may be one of the best ever on paper at FSU.
"We are very fortunate and are glad other people like SoccerBuzz feel like we do that this is one of the country's best classes."
Baker has become one of the nation's top recruiters since arriving in Tallahassee. Since 2000, only seven schools have brought in four classes with a combined ranking higher than FSU's. Florida State is also one of just nine schools that have been able to bring in four straight top 25 classes since 2000. This year Baker's class was also named the 10th-best in the nation by Soccer America marking the first time a Florida State recruiting class has been ranked by the prestigious soccer publication. The Tribe is one of just eight schools to appear in the top 10 in both publications.
"When we came to Florida State we knew that this was a great school with a great athletic department and a wonderful brand new facility. The missing piece was to take the recruiting efforts to a different level. I think we have been able to do that," said Baker. "Recruiting has allowed us to be successful in the fall and that success translates to being able to go out and get even better players the following year. We have been fortunate to be able to build on that every year."
Only two teams east of the Mississippi have had more recruiting success this decade than FSU under Baker as FSU has established itself as one of the premiere teams in the southeast. For the first time ever this past season, the Tribe finished second in the region behind only North Carolina and ranked ahead of every ACC school but UNC in the final SoccerBuzz poll. In SoccerBuzz's final regional rankings FSU finished ahead of Clemson, Auburn, Wake Forest, Florida and Duke to name just a few. FSU also finished ahead of everyone in the region except for the Heels in the final NSCAA national poll. The Seminoles are now in a class with just UNC and Virginia in the east in terms of success on the field and in the recruiting process. Last season only one ACC team (North Carolina) advanced farther in the NCAA's than FSU did when it reached the Round of 16. This year UNC finished just one spot above the Seminoles in SoccerBuzz's recruiting rankings.
"I know every program is supposed to be different but North Carolina is the measuring stick in our conference. They are the measuring stick in our region and ultimately they are the program we want to be associated with on a regular basis," said Baker. "We are not there yet but we are getting ever closer. If we can even be talked about in the same breath as North Carolina, that says a lot about the state of your program."
Since arriving at Florida State in 1999, Baker's recruiting efforts have revitalized the program, which has been to the round of 16 twice in the last three seasons and has made the NCAA Tournament three years in a row. Of the 287 teams participating in Division I women's soccer, Florida State is one of just 14 schools that have been to two of the last three Sweet 16's. Less than 5% of all NCAA Division I institutions playing women's college soccer have done what Florida State has accomplished over the last three seasons. The Seminoles are on a list with North Carolina, Santa Clara, Portland, Stanford, UCLA, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Connecticut, Penn State, Nebraska, Virginia, Clemson and Dartmouth as schools that have advanced to the final 16 at least twice in the last three seasons.
Florida State's 2003 class features two U-19 national pool players and four regional Olympic Development Program (ODP) players. For the second straight year Baker will bring in a player from California and Florida's top senior. The class also includes two regional ODP players from Pennsylvania.
Baker has landed four Gatorade Players of the Year in his five recruiting classes and four of his classes have been ranked in the top 25 including three in the top 13 in the nation. The Seminoles have played for the ACC title and been to the conference semi-finals in two of the last three years. In just three seasons, Baker's teams have recorded wins over 10 ranked teams including No. 3 North Carolina, No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 9 Clemson and No. 10 Florida.
For more information on the Florida State soccer program, the 2003 schedule and profiles of the 2003 recruiting class, please log onto the official athletic website for Florida State University at www.seminoles.com.