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Florida State creates blueprint for women's soccer success

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North Carolina won 12 NCAA women's soccer championships before Florida State fielded its first varsity team in 1995. The Tar Heels hold a 17-1-1 overall mark against the Seminoles, outscoring them 93-11.

But when the teams meet tonight in Chapel Hill in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener, the program carrying the biggest buzz will be FSU, not UNC.

The Seminoles (6-0) are ranked No.1 by Soccer America and No.2 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. They have reached the College Cup (the national semifinals) two of the last three seasons, advancing last fall by winning at North Carolina in a penalty-kick shootout.

"Florida State is the blueprint for building a program and building it the right way," says North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance, who has led the No.4 Tar Heels (8-1) to 17 NCAA crowns. "They are really at the front of the schools making an impact."

The Seminoles were 31-54-6 in their first four seasons, 3-24-1 in the ACC. That began to change in 1999 when the university completed a $6million soccer/softball complex and hired Patrick Baker as coach.

"The stadium was the first step in our master plan, and hiring a coach who could take us to the next level was the second," says associate athletics director Kim Record, who has overseen the program's growth from its first year. "We felt we had all the pieces to put together a great program, and Patrick was absolutely the perfect fit."

Baker was 0-6-1 in the ACC his first season but by 2000 had the Seminoles on course. They beat archrival Florida twice, upset defending national champion UNC and made the first of what is now six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

"When I took over the program I thought there were two sleeping giants in women's soccer: Texas and Florida State," Baker says. "Once we had success in 2000, we never looked back. We could sell our program as a Sweet 16 team."

Baker took FSU to the semifinals in 2003 before leaving to build the program at Georgia after the 2004 season. In stepped Mark Krikorian, who had coached the Philadelphia Charge of the now-defunct Women's United Soccer Association and the under-19 national team as well as at the college level. All he did was lead the Seminoles back to the College Cup.

"I give all the credit to Patrick Baker and his staff for the foundation they laid here," Krikorian says. "Now, the challenge is to show you're not just a one-year wonder, to get us where we annually are a team worthy of national respect."

Baker's strength was the framework he provided the program. Krikorian's is his ability to draw the best out of individuals and to tap his international connections. This year's roster has 11 players from Florida and six from overseas, led by Selin Kuralay of Australia and Mami Yamaguchi of Japan, who have teamed for six of the team's 11 goals this season.

The face of the FSU team is senior forward India Trotter, a Florida native recruited by Baker who has reached elite status under Krikorian's guidance. She has earned a spot on the U.S. national team and is a candidate for national player of the year.

"Coach Baker was very structured; (he) made everything on the field second nature for us," Trotter says. "Coach Krikorian has brought an extra oomph to the team and is bringing us to another level."

That level includes an annual operating budget of $330,000, excluding scholarships and coaching salaries, which can stand with any school in the country.

"The landscape has changed, and Florida State is a big part of that change," Dorrance says. "They got to the Final Four last year at our expense. Ten years ago I could count on one hand the number of schools who could legitimately make it through (the NCAA tournament). Now, I wouldn't rule out anyone in the top 12."

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© Copyright 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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