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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Beliefs turn words into season goal
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published March 2, 2006
TALLAHASSEE - It wasn't just a perfunctory preseason speech peppered with grandiose possibilities.
Florida State women's basketball coach Sue Semrautold her players, particularly seniors Holly Johnson, Ganiyat Adeduntan, LaQuinta Neelyand Hannah Linquist, that they could set a standard of achievement.
She believed it.
They then did it.
With a 10-4 league record, the Seminoles enter this week's ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., as the fourth seed - behind national powerhouses North Carolina, Duke and Maryland - and have a first-day bye. They will meet on Friday the winner of today's North Carolina State-Clemson game. The 10 victories are the most for FSU, though ACC teams played 16 league games until Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004-05.
Consider that a decade ago, FSU was 0-16 in the ACC.
In the past four years, Johnson, Adeduntan, Neely and Linquist have been a part of 75 wins. The best four-year span in program history was 79 wins from the 1988-89 through 1991-92 seasons.
More important, the Seminoles (19-8) are a lock to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, something FSU hasn't done since the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons.
"Those seniors put together years of continued growth," Semrau gushed. "That speaks to who they are; to their courage to say, "I want to come and build this thing,' and to their being faithful through the hard times."
And there were plenty of those, not the least of which was the shocking death of promising sophomore forward Ronalda Pierceshortly before last season.
For every step forward, Semrau's team seemingly took two back. But not this group of seniors.
"Individually, none of them could have done it. But collectively they've been fabulous," Semrau said. "They want to leave a legacy and that's what makes them special."
ONE FOR THE BOOKS: Semrau now has the most wins in FSU history (135), a record that crept up on folks here. Semrau broke Marynell Meadors' mark (132 wins from 1986-96) nearly two weeks ago.
A SPECIAL PERFORMANCE: Senior Carrie Ellis, a former star swimmer at Durant, went to the ACC meet a couple of weeks ago knowing she had qualified for the NCAA championships in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events.
Good thing, she told herself. She severely sprained her left ankle in early January and spent the next month in a walking cast, which left her little time to properly prepare for the conference championships.
"Because I had gotten two NCAA qualifying times in November, that took a lot of pressure off," she said.
Ellis, who had earned All-America honors at Virginia as a freshman but then succumbed to burnout and transferred to FSU before rediscovering her love of swimming, had a spectacular meet under any circumstances.
She bettered her qualifying time in the 50 free (22.76 seconds) in finishing second, won the 100 free and was part of four winning relay teams as FSU won its first league title.
The national championship meet is March 16-18 at Athens, Ga.
DOUBLE TAKE: When senior Chris Westerhof, along with partner Ytai Abougzir, beat Alabama's top tandem last weekend, he became FSU's all-time leader in men's tennis doubles with 80.
HIGH SCHOOL REUNION: Softball senior outfielder Carly Brieskegets to see a couple other Countryside alums this week. FSU meets defending national champion Michigan today, a squad that includes freshman outfielder Allison Kidman. Michigan will stick around for the Sunshine State Tournament and play FSU again Friday. Maryland is in town for that tournament, too, and plays FSU on Saturday. Crystal Crews, a prep teammate of Brieske's, pitches for the Terrapins.
Brian Landman covers Florida State athletics. He can be reached at 813 226-3347 or at firstname.lastname@example.org