Florida State Head Coach Mark Krikorian is in his 14th season in Tallahassee. In that time he has elevated the Seminoles into an elite national program. FSU has made the NCAA Tournament 18 straight years. In 15 of those years the Noles have made the Sweet 16. In 12 of those years FSU has appeared in the Elite 8 and in nine of those years they have made the College Cup (Final Four). The Seminoles were national runners-up in 2007 & 2013 and the Noles were national champions in 2014.
FSU has been extremely successful in the competitive ACC as well. Florida State won the ACC regular season crown in 2009, 2012 & 2014. The Seminoles won the conference tournament in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016. This is an astounding accomplishment as the ACC is perenially one of the top conferences in the nation.
In 2017 the Noles finished 13-7-1 (5-4-1, ACC). That was the most losses FSU has suffered in a single season since 2011 when the Seminoles went 18-7-1 (5-5, ACC). In the postseason last year the Noles lost in the first round of the ACC Tournament but bounced back in the NCAA Tournament to make the Sweet 16 falling to eventual national champion Stanford 1-0 in Palo Alto, CA.
Florida State will attempt to bounce back from last year’s rebuilding season. Let’s take a deeper look at the Noles.
Kristina Lynch (Freshman, Indiana)
Jaelin Howell (Freshman, Colorado)
Kirsten Pavlisko (Freshman, Florida)
Alexa Orrante (Senior, CSU Bakersfield)
Makala Thomas (Freshman, California)
Yujie Zhao (Freshman, China)
Adrienne Richardson (Transferred to LSU)
Haylie Grant (Graduated)
Claire Griffiths (Transferred to South Carolina)
Heidi Kollanen (Returned to Finland)
Ari Hudson (Graduated)
Emma Koivisto (Graduated)
Madisyn Pezzino (Transferred to Ole Miss)
Angeline Daly (Transferred to Auburn)
Cassie Miller (Graduated)
Reasons for Optimism
This team is loaded with talent. The first name on the scouting report for every opponent will be superstar Deyna Castellanos. Castellanos is a junior striker from Venezuela who is one of the top five players in the nation. She has been named a Top Drawer Soccer first team 2018 preseason All-American. Castellanos led the Noles last year with 19 goals. She is a bona fide celebrity in Venezuela with 1.2 million Instagram followers. Whenever she touches the ball there is a chance for magic as she is capable of truly astounding goals. FSU will attempt to get her the ball in the final third as much as possible and how much they are able to do that will have a big impact on their success this season. Last year in a controversial decision, Castellanos was named as one of the three finalists for Best FIFA Women’s player and was the only collegian to make the top 10. Now that last year’s drama is behind her Castellanos could be primed for a big season.
The talent doesn’t end with Castellanos. She will be supported up top by two seniors in Dallas Dorosy and the speedy Kaycie Tillman. Kristina Lynch will add scoring punch to the lineup as a freshman. Lynch was named Top Drawer Soccer’s national high school player of the year. She could have a major impact immediately paired with Castellanos. Another newcomer to watch is Yujie Zhao. Yujie was named a preseason first team freshman All-American by Top Drawer Soccer. With goals like this it is easy to see why she was recognized.
The Noles will be solid in the midfield as well with Gloriana Villalobos hoping to build on an impressive freshman season. The Costa Rican national was a 2017 2nd team freshman All-American. Villalobos is a tough player who is capable of providing support to the forwards up top as well as tracking back to aid the backline. A third newcomer who could see major minutes is 5* recruit Jaelin Howell. Howell started all three games for the USA in the U20 World Cup and she generally played well. Howell was named Woman of the Match in the first game against Japan. Howell played holding midfield in the World Cup.
This team was a bit too dependent on Castellanos for scoring last year but with the new additions and with some added experience the offense should be much improved in 2018.
Reasons for Concern
Before last year FSU could credit the success we discussed earlier in large part to the defense. In 2016 the Noles gave up only nine goals all season. Last year that number ballooned to 21 goals conceded. That is simply too many goals for a team this talented (with a keeper as good as Cassie Miller) to give up.
The Seminoles regularly started five freshmen last year and all of them played either on the back line or in holding midfield positions. That inexperience was a major factor in the large number of goals allowed. If the Seminoles can’t get the defense corrected they will not be able to deliver the bounce back season that many expect.
The Noles experienced problems last year with speedy strikers and defending set pieces. Fortunately there is some real talent on the back line and with an extra year of experience players like Emily Madril, Anna Patten, Gabby Carle and Clara Robbins should be much improved. The Noles are also lucky to have senior Natalia Kuikka returning to help organize things in the back. Kuikka (along with Castellanos) was named to the 2018 ACC preseason first team. The Seminoles would really benefit from a big season from the senior from Finland.
The other big issue for Florida State will be replacing rock steady Cassie Miller in goal. Caroline Jeffers (transfer from East Carolina) looks to have the inside track. Whoever the new keeper is the defense must be improved because FSU can’t reasonably expect the new goalkeeper to improve on Miller’s outstanding performance.
Florida State has been ranked ninth (Top Drawer Soccer) and tenth (United Soccer Coaches) in the preseason polls. The Noles were ranked second in the preseason ACC poll by the coaches even though they received the most first place votes.
This team is as talented as any team in the nation outside of Palo Alto. There is enough talent to return to the College Cup if everything comes together. However, the ACC will not be easy. North Carolina, Virginia and Duke will all battle FSU for conference supremacy.
Florida State was a team that was improving week by week last year. They played their best soccer at the end of the year. Look for that trend to continue. FSU will be a top three team in the ACC and will be strong contenders for an Elite 8 (or better) appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The Seminoles will kick off the season on Thursday, August 16th against Vanderbilt at 7pm at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Tallahassee.