The last few weeks (and hours) have been quite eventful for Florida State University athletics. There have been major coaching changes and roster changes in several sports. In recent years, Florida State fans have become used to a degree of stability. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case this summer. In fact, there has been significant news lately regarding several Seminole programs. Therefore, it is time for another edition of the Seminole sports notebook.
These are real questions posed by real people in the sense that they are actual questions (they end in a question mark) and I am a real person. I have written all of the questions.
Florida State soccer has published the roster for the upcoming season. Some prominent names do not appear on it. How will their omission affect the upcoming season?
In a negative way. Next question.
Oh. You want more.
Seminole Nation received quite a jolt yesterday when the soccer roster for the upcoming season was published and the following names were not on it: Emily Madril, Kirsten Pavlisko and Yujie Zhao.
If you are reading this article you probably already know that this is a massive loss. I will discuss the prospects for this season’s team in much more detail in the upcoming season preview article but FSU would have probably been the preseason #1 team in the nation if those players had returned (especially with the addition of Onyi Echegini). Without them the ceiling for this team has been significantly lowered.
Where will their loss be felt most acutely?
In two areas: defense and leadership.
Defense was a major factor in last year’s national championship season. The Seminoles ranked third nationally in goals against average last year (.503). The defense last year was comprised of Jaelin Howell (HM), Kirsten Pavlisko (RB), Emily Madril (CB), Lauren Flynn (CB), Gabby Carle (LB), Cristina Roque and Mia Justus (GK). Only the goal keepers and Flynn are now returning. This leaves a tremendous (and somewhat unexpected) void on the backline. Florida State will be really good if not elite at other areas on the field but the losses on the backline will cost this team.
There are probably six to eight players nationally who are locks to be NWSL first round draft picks (barring injury) even before the season starts. Madril was one of those players. She is a bonafide superstar who will be greatly missed. Pavlisko was not on Madril’s level as a player but she was a solid starter for FSU on more than one national championship level team. She also plays a position where the Noles have very little depth. Therefore, her decision to leave is almost as important as Madril’s. Zhao was another elite level player. Her stats didn’t always match her impact because FSU had so much midfield talent that she often platooned. However, her talent was definitely noticed. Her name was often at or near the top of the scouting reports made by opposing teams. The only thing that softens the blow of her departure (a bit) is that Florida State still has depth in the midfield.
The leadership piece is also critically important here. These three players are all seniors. Madril would have captained this team. That type of leadership and experience will be very difficult to replace.
How will FSU compensate for their loss?
We will have to see. However, the Seminoles do have options.
As discussed, Zhao was a fantastic talent and she would have added a more dangerous dimension to this team. Even so, her loss can be dealt with a little easier because FSU is still deep in the midfield.
The backline is a different story. The good news is that Roque and Justus will provide excellent (if not elite) goal keeping. The bad news is that FSU has now lost quite a bit of talent on the backline and there aren’t obvious replacements at hand.
However, all is not lost. The Noles do have options. I haven’t discussed this with the staff but my guess is that FSU will move Clara Robbins to the backline. Robbins is the only player still on the roster other than Flynn who has significant experience playing on the backline at the college level. She last played there over two years ago and her best position is in the midfield but Florida State is frankly in a desperate situation here so the Seminoles will have to make tough decisions. Heather Payne will probably also step in at outside back. There will be a position battle at the other backline position and I would expect Emma Bissell and Heather Gilchrest to get strong consideration for that spot.
It is extremely difficult to replace players of the quality of the three seniors who are leaving. The coaches will have to get creative especially on the backline. However, there is still quite a bit of talent left on the team in the midfield and the Seminoles may have the best set of forwards in the nation with the addition of Echegini. This will still be a dangerous team capable of beating anyone in the nation on the right day. The Seminoles will still be a tournament team but the Elite Eight run (15 appearances in the last 17 seasons) is in serious jeopardy.
Florida State has not announced the schedule for the upcoming season but we know that the first game will be against South Carolina on August 18th at 7pm in Columbia.
Can you give us a quick update on some of the other sports?
Let’s start with women’s basketball. New head coach Brooke Wyckoff will start her first season as the permanent head coach with a revamped roster. I will have much more to say about the team in my season preview but right now Florida State has 10 players listed on the roster. The Noles will likely add one or two more players before the season starts. FSU desperately needs for at least one of those players to be at least 6’3 (if not taller). Valencia Myers (6’3) is the tallest player left on the roster. A small team will have a tough time in an ACC Conference that may be the best in the nation next year.
While FSU did lose quite a bit of talent to the transfer portal, Wyckoff did a good job convincing the young core of the team to return. The talent is there in the backcourt and on the wings for a return trip to the tournament if another post player can be found.
The softball season ended prematurely in the Tallahassee Regional this year but Florida State remains one of the elite programs in the nation. Such a program can usually attract top talent out of the transfer portal and FSU may have done that with the addition of Allison Royalty from Arizona State. Royalty profiles as an elite talent who didn’t quite live up to her potential in Tempe. She may just need a change of scenery. Also, having one of the top pitching coaches in the nation in Lonni Alameda to tutor her probably won’t hurt.
Royalty’s addition will provide more depth to the pitching staff and give Alameda more options especially in the later innings. It will also give Mack Leonard (the hardest working player in softball) a chance to take a break every once in a while.
As always, the comments are yours.