Florida State Head Coach Mark Krikorian is in his 16th season in Tallahassee. In that time he has elevated the Seminoles into an elite national program. FSU has made the NCAA Tournament 20 straight years. In 17 of those years the Noles have made the Sweet 16. In 14 of those years FSU has appeared in the Elite 8 and in 10 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 and 2018.
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 & 2018. This is an astounding accomplishment as the ACC is perenially one of the top conferences in the nation.
Last year FSU finished 18-6 (9-3 ACC including post-season games). The Seminoles fell to Virginia in the ACC Tournament Semifinals. After earning a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament Florida State advanced to the Elite 8 before being eliminated by UCLA to end the season.
Due to the pandemic this season will be like no other in NCAA history. ACC teams will play an eight game regular season exclusively against conference opponents. The season will end with the ACC Tournament. The NCAA Tournament has been cancelled for now. However, it is possible that there could be some type of championship tournament played in the spring. This season will not count toward any player’s eligibility clock. In other words, seniors will be allowed to return for next year, juniors will have two years of eligibility remaining after this year while sophomores will have three and freshmen will have all four years remaining.
Let’s take a closer look at the Seminoles.
Linn Bogren (Freshman, Linkoping, Sweden)
Jody Brown (Freshman, St. Ann, Jamaica)
Lauren Flynn (Freshman, Arlington, Virginia)
Ran Iwai (Freshman, Mitaka City, Tokyo, Japan)
Cristina Roque (Freshman, Winter Garden, Florida)
Kaitlyn Zipay (Freshman, Winter Springs, Florida)
Deyna Castellanos (Graduated)
Caroline Jeffers (Graduated)
Ali Kalayjian (Transfer to Georgia)
Paige LaBerge (Transfer to Quinnipiac)
Taylor Radecki (Transfer to Ole Miss)
This team is loaded. Florida State has three players named to the All-ACC Preseason Team (redshirt senior Malia Berkely, junior Jaelin Howell and junior Yujie Zhao). This team has the talent to win the ACC Tournament and it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Seminoles go undefeated in this abbreviated season. The Noles are also completely healthy going into the season for the first time in ages. This is a very deep roster. Therefore there will be position battles all over the field. Let’s examine the roster in more detail.
The two goalkeepers on the roster are redshirt junior Brooke Bollinger and freshman Cristina Roque. Bollinger is a former starter who lost her job to Caroline Jeffers after injuring her shoulder in the 2018 ACC Championship Game against North Carolina. Bollinger is the likely starter based on her athleticism and experience. However, Roque has international experience as the keeper for the Puerto Rican national team. FSU has two very capable keepers and while Bollinger has the inside track to be the starter it is likely that Roque will see some time. She is too good to keep on the bench for the entire season.
The backline was a bit of an issue for Florida State last year. In 2019 the Noles conceded 27 goals in only 24 games. In the championship season of 2018 FSU conceded only 13 goals in 27 games. Florida State had plenty of talent on defense but they had to play a couple of players out of position due to injuries. Gabby Carle and Heather Payne play different positions for their national teams (midfield and forward respectively) but they have played on the backline for Florida State. FSU starts the season healthy which means that Emily Madril will be back. Madril has missed the last two season due to a pair of ACL tears but her return allows the Seminoles to move either Carle or Payne to their more natural position. FSU also welcomes freshman Linn Bogren to Tallahassee. If Bogren can earn playing time on the backline that would allow both Carle and Payne to play at their more comfortable positions and that would make the team even more dangerous. Whatever happens the Seminoles will be able to rely on Berkely and the solid Kirsten Pavlisko to hold things down.
The midfield is the deepest position group on the roster. Zhao and Howell have obviously proved their quality but the talent certainly doesn’t end there. Sophomore Jenna Nighswonger made the All-ACC Freshman team last year even though she played out of position on the wing. This year she will move to her more natural position in central midfield next to Zhao. The former five-star recruit could be in for a breakout campaign now that she is playing her more natural position.
After those three there will be fierce competition for the other two midfield spots. If Carle or Payne are able to leave the backline either of them will be prime candidates to play on the wing in the midfield. Carle in particular would be deadly in this role. Other names to watch are Kristina Lynch, Abbey Newton, Leilanni Nesbeth, Clara Robbins, and Makala Thomas. I have also heard very good things about freshmen Ran Iwai and Lauren Flynn. Simply put, FSU is loaded in the midfield.
The three contenders for the spot up top are likely to be incumbent Kristen McFarland, Heather Payne and freshman Jody Brown. Brown has been turning heads in training camp with her speed. However, McFarland has a ton of experience as a redshirt senior and Payne plays up top for Ireland at the highest levels of international soccer. This is a spot where the coaches will likely rotate players.
This team is deep, versatile and most importantly healthy. This is a strange season and with no NCAA championship at stake there may be more experimentation with lineups than usual. However, with this much talent the Noles are going to win a lot of games. They avoid North Carolina in the regular season but do have a tough date in Charlottesville on October 18th with a Virginia team that beat FSU twice last year. All of the other tough games (Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame and Clemson) are in Tallahassee. It will take a bit of luck but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Florida State rolled into the ACC Tournament undefeated.
The season starts tonight against Notre Dame in Tallahassee at the Seminole Soccer Complex. Notre Dame finished last season 31st in the RPI. The game is scheduled to kick off at 8pm and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.