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Seminole optimism continues to grow

Florida State returns seven starters and has a very strong recruiting class, but it still may not be enough to catch UF.


© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State senior goalkeeper Sarah Crawford hasn't forgotten her debut in last season's opener against archrival Florida.

"That was the first time I had played Florida and I was all excited to come in and show to my team, myself and the soccer world what I could do," she said.

But 56 seconds into the match, a shot sailed past her. Four more would follow from the defending national champion Gators, who again easily beat their rivals.

Welcome to big-time college soccer.

"I don't think they really took me that seriously," said Crawford, a co-captain for the Seminoles, who kick off the season at 7 tonight against Florida. "I like to be that factor that helps win the game and be like, "Yeah you guys walked over us last year, but that isn't going to happen this year.' "

Even the Gators, ranked No. 10 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll, sense the days of easy wins against FSU are gone. They have outscored FSU 20-1 in five previous meetings, including 5-1 last season.

"They're trying to make themselves a better team and it shows," Florida junior forward Andi Sellers said. "Each year, they're improving."

The Seminoles return seven starters, including Norwegian twins Maren and Marte Vik Edvardsen, a pair of creative and dangerous central midfielders. Second-year coach Patrick Baker also brought in the program's first nationally heralded recruiting class, highlighted by midfielder Emma Breland, a member of Sweden's under-18 team, and two of Florida's top prospects, high scoring forward Summer Corum from Vero Beach and midfielder Amber Tollefson from Boca Raton Spanish River.

Welcome to big-time college soccer?

Well, optimism is higher than ever in Tallahassee.

"Do I think we're able to compete with them this year more than any other year? Yes, I do," Baker said. "If we would be fortunate enough to win or tie the game, it would send a shock through the college soccer world. But on paper, they're still a much better team than we are, there's no doubt about it."

But on paper, the Gators have just one senior, midfielder Angie Olson, the Southeastern Conference tournament MVP. That means they will be relying predominantly on juniors, beginning with forward Abby Wambach, a first-team All-American, Sellers, midfielder Karyn Hall and defender Keisha Bell, a third-team All-American.

"It is a young team, but it does have a lot of experience," Olson said, pointing out that the juniors were around for Florida's 1998 national title and then the disappointment of a first-round NCAA Tournament loss last season.

Most important, she said, the returning players understand what it means to wear the target for every opponent. They expect to get every team's best shot, aware that a win against the Gators could make an opponent's season.

Especially for an in-state rival.

"That's definitely an issue we emphasize," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "I'm sure FSU is saying, "Hey. They have a young team. It's the first game of the season. They're ripe for the picking.' That's exactly what I would be saying if I were FSU. So we just need to be prepared. They're going to come out hard."

Women's soccer

1999: 21-2, 9-0 SEC (regular-season and tournament champion).

COACH: Becky Burleigh (103-13-3; 185-36-9, 11th season).

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Keisha Bell, Jr., D (first-team All-SEC, third-team All-American); Andi Sellers, Jr., F (15 goals, 8 assists); Abby Wambach, Jr., F (23 goals, 16 assists); Karyn Hall, Jr., MF (1 goal, 5 assists); Jordan Kellgran, So., G (.567 gaa ranked sixth in the nation); Danielle Murphy, So., MF/D (1 goal, 11 assists); Angie Olson, Sr., MF (SEC tournament MVP); Erica "Boo" Schubert, So., F/MF (9 goals, 5 assists).

KEY NEWCOMERS: Kelley Visentin, Fr., F/MF (Boca Raton); Robin Fulton, Fr., F/D (Wyoming High, Cincinnati); Casey Hammel, Fr., MF/D (Santa Margarita Catholic High, Laguna Hills, Calif.).

NOTES: The Gators, ranked No. 10 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll, are determined to erase the painful memory of last season's finish -- a second-round upset loss in the NCAA Tournament. The early exit was especially embarrassing because UF was the defending national champion. Picked by SEC coaches to win their fifth consecutive league title, the Gators return eight starters and 16 letter-winners. They must replace two vital players: All-American and SEC Player of the Year Sarah Yohe, a forward who led the team with 24 goals, and All-America defender Heather Mitts, who led the team with 2,081 minutes played. All-Americans Wambach, Sellers and Bell should fill those roles. The Gators will be tested early, with seven consecutive matches against teams that reached the NCAA Tournament's second round last season. The final two are against the teams to which UF lost last season, Hartford and Virginia, at a late-September tournament hosted by Virginia.

- Compiled by Joanne Korth.

Florida State

1999: 9-10-1, 0-7-1 ACC (last).

COACH: Patrick Baker (9-10-1; 96-68-10, 11th season).

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Maren Vik Edvardsen, Jr., M (9 goals, 3 assists); April Murphy, Sr., F (6 goals, 7 assists); Cindy Schofield, So., F. (3 goals, 1 assist); Marte Vik Edvardsen, Jr., M (4 goals, 3 assists); Rachael Watkin, Sr., D/M (co-captain, three-year starter); Sarah Crawford, Sr., GK (4-5-1, 1.90 GAA, 1.5 shutouts, co-captain).

KEY NEWCOMERS: Summer Corum, Fr., F (Vero Beach); Janet Burke, Fr., F, (Starrs Mill, Fayetteville, Ga.); Emma Breland, Fr., M (Trelleborg, Sweden); Amber Tollefson, Fr., M (Boca Raton Spanish River); Tiffini DeGaetani, Fr., D (Clarkstown South, New City, N.Y.); Tori George, Fr., D (Chantilly High, Fairfax, Va.); Kristin Boyce, Fr., D (Westwood High, Austin, Texas).

NOTES: FSU, still going through growing pains as it enters its sixth year, is coming off its second most successful campaign and returns seven key starters. In what is a potential breakthrough, Baker's first recruiting class was hailed by Soccer Buzz as third best in the Southeast and 13th nationally. Newcomers Corum and Burke add to a veteran frontline of Murphy, who has 13 career goals, and Schofield. The Edvardsen twins, Maren, who has 17 career goals, and Marte, a solid playmaker, should anchor the central midfield along with newcomers Tollefson, a four-time all-state pick, and Breland. She was a member of the Swedish under-18 national team who spent her senior year as an exchange student at South Side High in Jackson, Tenn., scoring 59 goals in 19 games. The defense figures to get a boost from speedy senior Danielle Foard and junior Heather Dyche. Foard injured a foot and missed the last 12 games. Dyche injured a knee in the opener and didn't play again. The key to the defense rests with the maturation of Crawford, who struggled early but improved steadily as she split time. She's the only keeper on the roster with collegiate experience.

- Compiled by Brian Landman.

South Florida

1999: 11-8; 7-4 C-USA (sixth).

COACH: Logan Fleck (53-29-5; 67-39-6 seventh season).

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Siri Nordby, Sr., F (30 points, first-team All-Conference USA selection, preseason conference player of the year. Led team in scoring last season 14 goals, 2 assists); Tia Oplingler, Jr., MF (16 points, second in team scoring last season 5 goals and 6 assists, second-team All-Conference USA); Christina Gaudion, Sr., MF (nine points, third in team scoring, 4 goals, 1 assist).


NOTES: Entering its fifth year, the program returns eight starters, led by Nordby. With so many veterans, the Bulls will be stronger without having to rely on young players. The season starts out tough for the Bulls, who open at Florida State on Sunday, then travel to Florida on Sept. 1. The home opener is Sept. 15.

- Compiled by Antonya English.

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