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Friday November 28, 2003FSU Soccer Defeats Florida 2-1 in NCAA Elite 8

Gainesville, FL

The University of Florida soccer team fell to Florida State Friday night at Percy Beard Stadium 2-1 in the NCAA Quarterfinal round. The Seminoles now advance to their first NCAA College Cup and will play the winner of Saturday’s BYU-Connecticut match in the Dec. 5 semifinal round in Cary, N.C. Friday’s crowd of 3,432, which ranks fifth all-time in attendance for a Gator soccer match, was treated to a fast-paced, thrilling match from two of the southeast’s elite soccer programs.

Florida (19-4-2) controlled the match in the early minutes, but soon the Florida State squad took control and never really relinquished it. The Seminoles have faced 13 NCAA Tournament teams in their last 16 matches and have turned around a season that started 1-4.

One of those four losses came to a Gator squad that finished the season nine wins better than a year ago and back among the elite teams in all of college soccer after being left out of the NCAA Tournament last season. The Gators took the first match 2-0 in Gainesville on Sept. 5 but were out shot Friday by a 14-9 margin.

Despite Florida State’s constant pressure, the Gators had some scoring chances in the first half. The best came at 29:43 when Ashley Kellgren headed a ball just over the crossbar after Melanie Booth sent a bending ball into the Seminole box. Florida State would turn up the pressure for the remainder of the half but the half ended in a scoreless stalemate.

The second half played much like the first. Florida State’s set pieces started to create havoc around the Gator net. Seminole defender Katie Beal sent numerous free kicks into the Gator box and it was only a matter of time before one would find a Seminole player in scoring position.

One of Beal’s serves found Kelly Rowland at 56:11 and the defender headed it past Gator keeper Brittni Goodwin to put the Seminoles on top 1-0.

Florida State added its last goal on header by Jez Ratliff at 68:18 after Florida attempted to clear one of Florida State’s five corner kicks.

Just when it appeared that the game would end 2-0, the Gators turned up the heat in the Seminole half. The Gators punched through their lone goal at 87:09 when Melanie Booth served the ball over the head of Seminole keeper Joy McKenzie. The ball ricocheted off the far post and found the feet of Megan McMillan who hammered it home to bring Florida within one goal.

The pressure only increased from there as the Gators camped in the Florida State end the remainder of the game. Christine Johnson and Robin Fulton both sent blazing shots over the Seminole net in the last two minutes but the comeback would fall one goal short.

Florida State played well," Florida Head Coach Becky Burleigh said. "I give them a lot of credit. Their midfield played well both offensively and defensively. We had some opportunities at the end but it was too late. The better team tonight won."

Florida State becomes only the second team from the state of Florida to advance to the College Cup, the Gators being the other (1998 and ’01). Florida State Head Coach Patrick Baker said it was special to play in such a big game against a huge rival.

"I would be lying if I said this was not special. Becky and her team had an excellent season. We strive to be the best team in the state but it is tough because Florida has set the bar so high," Baker said.

For seniors McMillan, Fulton, Crystal Frimpong, and Dena Floyd, the match would be the last of their careers, which saw one College Cup appearance, two Southeastern Conference titles, and a 66-25-1 record.

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