"This is one of the sweetest wins that we've had," said head coach Patrick Baker. "I told our team before the game that 2000 (the last time UF played in Tallahassee) was a long time ago. I had a very good feeling tonight but that changed when Florida scored on its first shot on frame. I thought our group responded. This was a great team effort and very rewarding. Anytime you can beat Florida, home or away, it's extra special.
The Seminoles staged their second straight comeback against a ranked opponent to get the victory Friday. Last week they came back twice against No. 17 Clemson to get an overtime win. Tonight, FSU fell behind just over six minutes in but first half goals by Leah Gallegos (5) and Jez Ratliff (3) and stingy defense in the second period sealed the FSU victory.
"In 1999, every time an opponent scored first they won and every time we scored first we won," said Baker. "The mentality began to change against Florida in 2000 when we staged two comebacks and got a huge win. The same thing happened against North Carolina that year as we went down a goal and came back to get a win. That happened again this year versus Clemson. All those comebacks came against great competition. This team has some resolve. They understand it is a 90 minute game and they understand anything can happen."
The win was witnessed by the largest crowd in the history of the Seminole Soccer Complex as 1,603 fans were in attendance. This is the third attendance record FSU has set this season in seven home matches.
"We felt the crowd tonight," said senior defender Ashlee Fontes. "They were amazing. The support we have received from the students and people of Tallahassee over the last three years has been wonderful."
As has been the case for most of the 2002 season, Florida State came out strong. The Seminoles controlled the tempo of the game and dominated possession for the first five minutes. Neither team pressured the net during that span as the first shot of the game didn't come until the 5:20 mark.
Just :44 seconds later though the Gators took the lead. Sophomore Stephanie Freeman started the play off with a great ball down the left side to Robin Fulton. The junior from Cincinnati sent a ball into the box that Crystal Frimpong and Fontes both charged. Frimpong got off the shot before the defender could block it and the Gators took an early 1-0 lead.
After the early score the Seminole defense and Kerry York shutout the Gators for the next 84 minutes. This was the fifth time this season the Seminoles have either shutout an opponent or held them to just one goal as York saw her GAA fall to 1.27.
"I thought after we gave up that early goal, we defended very well collectively," said Baker. "Our front runners, our midfielders, our backs all defended well. Kerry (York) came up big with two or three big saves and our defenders came up with some big saves too.
"I am so excited for our defense. I think they proved tonight that they are capable of doing some special things. Tonight will be a huge confidence boost."
Reigning ACC Player of the Week Leah Gallegos then went to work as she looked to help FSU equalize the game. In the 21st minute she split the Gator defense with a great run but had her legs taken out from under her. The Seminoles were awarded a free kick from 24 yards out but Meredith Jones' shot was blocked on its way to the net.
Gallegos got another chance just moments later and she made it stand up. 2001 SoccerBuzz Southeast All-Freshman team selection Camie Bybee started the play. The midfielder fed Gallegos the ball just inside of the 18 in the center of the box. The freshman from Los Angeles took one touch, turned to goal and tucked the ball in to the left side of the net past UF starter Jordan Kellgren. It was the fourth straight Seminole goal scored by the standout striker.
"Things are going well for our team right now and I am just happy I can help us win," said Gallegos. "After the Clemson game I really just wanted to continue to play at a consistent level and I think that is starting to happen."
After tying the game at 1-1, FSU continued to attack in search of the go-ahead goal. They almost got it from senior striker Cindy Schofield. The 2001 All-ACC first teamer took a free kick from about 28 yards away just to the left of center. Her blast beat Kellgren to the far post but bounced off the crossbar and back out into the box. Bybee collected the rebound and fired a shot that was headed into the open net but was blocked by a Gator defender before it could cross the line.
In what was a very physical game, one of the Gators 23 fouls led to the eventual game-winner. In the 36th-minute freshman Teresa Rivera served a beautiful ball to the back post off a free kick. Junior co-captain Amber Tollefson, who measures just 5'3", used every inch of her height and an incredible jump to get her head on the service and knock it into the center of the box where 2001 All-ACC Freshman team selection Jez Ratliff was waiting. The sophomore forward one-timed the shot past Kellgren to stake FSU to a 2-1 lead.
"The free kick sailed over the keeper and defense to Amber at the back post," said Ratliff. "She did a great job to get the ball to me and it came right to my foot. I just had to make sure I didn't get under it and thankfully it stayed under the crossbar."
Florida pushed up in the second half as they applied pressure in search of the equalizing goal. In the 52nd-minute York came up big. Fulton had made a run into the box on the right side of the pitch. The sophomore keeper charged off her line and smothered the ball just as the Gator pulled the trigger.
Florida State almost had the insurance goal it was looking for in the 74th minute. The Seminole forwards were applying pressure to third-team NSCAA All-American Danielle Murphy deep in the UF end. The senior misplayed the ball and it went right to Ratliff all alone inside the Gator 18-yard box. The sophomore, who has already scored four of her eight career goals in games being broadcast by the Sunshine Network, looked for number five but was unable to pull the trigger before the defense closed in on her.
Two minutes later Rivera almost did the Gators in again on another free kick. She placed a perfect service inside the box that junior defender Kristin Boyce went down to get. Her strong header just six yards out from goal bounced in front of the Gator keeper but Kellgren came up with the save.
Florida had two last ditch chances in the final ten minutes to send the game to overtime. In the 83rd minute, Frimpong had a dangerous look inside the FSU box but York responded to the challenge again hauling in her fourth save of the night. Florida's last threat came with just 1:06 remaining on the clock when Fulton found a little space on the far right side of the box and ripped a shot that sailed into the side netting wide of the post.
Florida State than ran the last minute off the clock and savored the team's third straight win and its second in a week over a Top 25 squad. The victory moved the 2002 Seminole seniors to 3-2-0 all-time versus UF. They will be the first class to ever leave the university with a record of .500 or better in their careers against their in-state rivals.
"This feels so awesome," said Fontes. "Every time we play UF, the whole 90 minutes is a dogfight. Even though they are a hated rival we love to play them because the game is so intense and winning feels so good.
"I am at a loss for words. We got a big win tonight and that will make us want more with four highly-ranked ACC teams still on the schedule."
Friday night's victory is just another chapter in the complete turnaround of the Seminole soccer program under Baker. Since 2000, FSU is 22-2-2 at home, they have defeated six ranked teams at the Seminole Soccer Complex and are 2-0-0 against Florida in Tallahassee. After getting off to a 0-5-0 start in the all-time series with the Gators, FSU raised its record to 3-1-0 against UF over the last three years under the fourth-year head coach.
"Lets face it, the reason I am at FSU is because four years after Florida began its program they won a National Championship. Four years after we began our program, we were at the bottom of the ACC," said Baker. "Granted, we didn't have all the pieces in place as far as facilities go right away like Florida did but I came here to beat Florida and try and chase North Carolina in the ACC. That was the enticement for me to come to Florida State. It has been a process but we not only closed the gap in a hurry, we surpassed some of the expectations people had of our program."
With Friday night's win, FSU matched the record set by the 1996, 2000 and 2001 squads for the best start through 10 games. The Seminoles have now gone 5-1-0 after starting the season 1-1-2 and have a .700 winning percentage.
"I think we struggled a little bit at the start of the season getting our rhythm and adjusting to the new players," said Ratliff. "Even though we lost to Charlotte in Miami, I think we turned the corner in that game. Ever since then we have been performing at a much higher level."
"I think a lot of people felt we were having a down year after the start we got off to," said Baker. "We just weren't in sync. We were a pass off or a step off. We just weren't there. I'm not saying we are there now but we are a lot closer than we were a week or two ago."
Florida State will have a week off to rest up as the team prepares for the second half of the season. The Seminoles will return to action Friday, October 4 when they face UCF in another match that will be televised by the Sunshine Network. For complete stats, game stories, player features and weekly releases, please log on to seminoles.com, the official athletic website for Florida State University.