Missouri came into Friday night's game after upsetting preseason No. 23 Illinois in double OT in its season opener and off a 2001 campaign that saw them go 13-8-0. They finished .500 in the Big 12 and are currently ranked No. 7 in the Central region. The Tigers gave the Seminoles everything they could handle as the two teams combined for 44 shots, 22 shots on goal and 13 corners.
"I thought the first 90 minutes was a tale of two halfs," said head coach Patrick Baker. "We did some very good things and scored a nice goal in the first 45:00. Missouri did a great job in the second half. I give coach (Bryan) Blitz and his staff a lot of credit. They manufactured a great first goal to make it 1-1 and from then the dogfight was on."
The first dangerous opportunity of the match came in the 11th minute and it belonged to Mizzou. Missy Peabody fired a shot at Kerry York that the keeper couldn't hold on to after rain had covered the pitch for the first 20 minutes of the game. Adriene Davis ran to goal and picked up the rebound about six yards out but York came up with a point blank stop.
Florida State broke on top in the 28th-minute when it capitalized on the squad's first great chance of the evening. Freshman sensation Leah Gallegos dribbled down the right sideline with two Tiger defenders on her the whole way. About two yards from the endline on the right side of the goal she created space and give herself enough room to send an arching cross to the backpost. Junior defender Tori George was sitting right there and buried the header to put FSU up 1-0.
"I was able to free myself from a couple defenders down in the box," said Gallegos who recorded the first point of her Seminole career. "When I have the ball at my feet I don't really realize how many people are marking me. I didn't see Tori at the backpost but I hoped someone was there.
"It felt good to get the first point of my Seminole career. Now I want to get the first goal too."
The goal was the first of George's career. The junior has made a big impact since returning to the program after a one year absence and her first goal helped put the Seminoles in front just 27:43 into the match.
"It was really exciting to get that goal," said George. "I was just trying to get in there and get a piece of it. I was hiding at the backpost behind girls a lot taller than me and I just jumped. I think the defenders thought the keeper was going to be able to get to it. It was exciting to be able to contribute."
The balance of the first half after the goal belonged to Florida State as the Seminoles outshot and out cornered the Tigers the rest of the way. After halftime, Missouri began to make its move.
Just 4:07 into the second period Mizzou got the equalizer. Peabody, a sophomore from St. Louis, MO, ripped a shot from just inside the Seminole 18-yard box beating York and breathing new life into Mizzou.
"I could tell at halftime our mentality was totally off," said Baker. "After about five minutes into the second half, I could tell the furthest thing from our team's mind was the fact the game could be tied. We have been plagued by giving up big five goals and it happened again tonight. We have to change that mentality.
"I told our team that I take responsibility because I sensed what was going on at halftime and I didn't say what my gut was telling me to say. I thought our experience would get us through that. I should have put everything in perspective in a hurry. "
Missouri went on the attack after the goal and ended up out shooting FSU 14 to 8 with eight of those shots on frame. The Tigers challenged the Seminole defense which was without two starters and began to find some cracks in the middle where freshman All-American Katie Beal and Florida Gatorade Player of the Year Teresa Rivera usually play.
"Missouri has speed and they dribbled right at us," said George. "People usually don't do that. They found some seams in our defense because our shape wasn't good enough and we didn't pinch in. Our defense was a little frustrated but I think we began to straighten things out in overtime."
The Tiger attack almost netted the go-ahead goal in the 57th minute when Davis beat two FSU defenders and freed herself in alone with York. The former Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year charged Davis and made a sliding save.
The Seminoles fought back in the 63rd minute as sophomore Jez Ratliff sent Gallegos down the flank and the freshman once again drove endline. She sent a beautiful ball back into the center of the box to a waiting Cindy Schofield. The All-ACC first teamer trapped the ball but was unable to pull the trigger before the Tiger defense swarmed around her.
Just moments later, Missouri jumped in front when Peabody sent Amber Swinehart in behind the FSU defense. The freshman made a perfect run down the middle of the pitch and broke in one-on-one with York who had no chance to make the save.
The Garnet and Gold eventually made the move to a 4-3-3 alignment and went in search of the equalizer. In the 79th minute Ratliff continued her hot start to the 2002 campaign by carrying the ball down the left wing and centering a perfect strike to Schofield. The senior got off a brilliant shot which caught the inside of the right post and ricocheted straight back to Ratliff on the left side of the box. The Oklahoma native buried her second goal of the year into the net to bring the Seminoles even at 2-2.
"The game was back and forth and Missouri was very hyped up to face us," said Ratliff who now leads the team with two goals in 2002. "Their second goal changed the complexion of the game and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to help get us back into it. The goal just came right to me and I was just hoping not to hit it over the bar. Cindy did a great job with the shot and was just unlucky it didn't go in."
The switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 was something the Seminoles had worked on in the Spring for just this occasion. Baker's squad was able to get pressure on the Tiger defense and eventually tie the game after he made the switch.
"Once we were down 2-1, they forced us to change something," said Baker. "We spent all Spring in the 4-3-3 and we went to that. We feel we have some dynamic personalities and we were able to manufacture an equalizer."
Florida State had two more great chances to end the game in regulation. In the 83rd minute, Ratliff used a great stop-and-go move to get behind the Tiger defense with her blazing speed. She tracked the ball down and sent a pinpoint cross in to Gallegos which went just wide of the right post.
In the 89th minute, Gallegos went back to work as she intercepted a goal kick and found Amber Tollefson inside the box about 10 yards from goal. The ball ran just out of Tollefson's reach as she was unable to get the shot off.
In the first overtime period, Ratliff again looked to end the game as she made a dangerous run across the top of the box in the 94th minute. As she carried the ball across the mouth of the goal she found Gallegos on the right side. The freshman collected the pass and headed to goal but her strike went just wide and into the side netting.
Florida State really turned on the offense in the final overtime period. The Tribe outshot Missouri 4 to 1 in the second overtime but was unable to find the back of the net as they continued to push forward in search of the golden goal.
"We had a great chance in the first overtime period right at the end but it just wasn't to be," said Baker. "The college game is just so competitive right now and you can see that with every score across the country. These three results for us came against good teams. At this time last year we were 2-1 and two years ago all three of the teams we played this season were tight games. We lost to Missouri in 2000 and both Oregon and Oregon State were one goal games.
"Right now we are just trying to find our team identity. The seniors we lost were the fabric of our team and now we have to find the players who are going to carry that torch. It takes time. The positive is that we are still undefeated. I can't fault the commitment of our players or their effort. If we keep this up, good things will happen throughout the year."
Florida State returns to action Sunday, September 8 at 2:00 p.m. in the final game of the 2002 Seminole Invitational against LSU (1-1-0). The Tigers dropped their first game of the tournament 1-0 on a goal in the 83rd minute versus No. 23 Miami. All regular season games played at the Seminole Soccer Complex are free. For more information on FSU soccer, please visit www.seminoles.com.