It was a season to be proud of in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida State Seminoles had a phenomenal run that took them to the DI-AA national quarterfinals. In the end, Tennessee put them on a plane back to Tallahassee out a game before the final four, but for the Seminoles, it was about the journey, not the destination.
Florida State had a lackluster fall, failing to make it back to the Florida Cup‘s final weekend. Coming into the spring, external expectations were low. So what did head coach Kirk Swanner and Florida State do? They controlled only what they could and left the rest to the public.
It’s a very common philosophy to have in sports and it seemed to work well for FSU. The Seminoles finished 7-2 in conference play and beat South Florida on their home pitch to go into South Independent Rugby Conference playoffs with full momentum.
From there, they took out Kennesaw State and Central Florida by a combined score of 68-19 for the inaugural SIRC title and punch their ticket to Knoxville, Tenn. for the Sweet 16. Didn’t matter though, they still had to face rival Florida in the first round. Florida had beaten the Seminoles twice already this season. Public perception was that Florida would make it three in a row in Knoxville.
“It was what it was; we couldn’t control that so why worry about it, wouldn’t have done us any good,” Swanner said. “We had a lot of confidence in ourselves because we’ve faced the Gators so much and had extra fuel because it’s our rival. We just wanted to play a great game.”
That they did, knocking off Florida 34-12. An upset win in the first round for a team that no one expected to win their conference.
“Great win for our boys to beat a tough team like Florida and get the monkey off our back,” Swanner said. “But we had to flush it and regroup for the next round to face one of the toughest teams in the country.”
Even though they lost the match, it still went a lot better than expected. Tennessee did jump out to an early 17-3 lead, but FSU, like they had done all year, battled back and took a 24-23 lead in the second half. However, the Volunteers reeled off 22 unanswered points for a 45-27 win to go to the semifinals.
After the game, it was handshakes, hugs and sparkling cider for FSU players, coaches and fans in a celebratory toast to a great season. And in a good sportsmanlike gesture, they clapped the Volunteers off the field.
“I told the boys our season had to end eventually and what better way than on the national stage,” Swanner said. “We won our conference, made the tourney, beat our rival and gave Tennessee one of their closest matches of the year so why not celebrate what we had accomplished. We had fun!”