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Women’s College Soccer. Florida State Will Be Talented And Experienced Again In 2023

Nine Starters Return From The 2022 Team That Advanced To The College Cup.

Coach – Brian Pensky – 2nd season
Conference – Atlantic Coast Conference
2022 Record – 17-3-3, 8-2-0 in conference
2022 National Ranking – 3rd United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News
Five Year Win Total
2018 – 20
2019 – 18
2020 – 13
2021 – 22
2022 – 17
Key Departures
Jenna Nighswonger – Midfielder – Started 22 games in 2022 season with six goals and 16 assists. 2022 First Team All-America United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News. United Soccer Coaches 2022 Scholar Player of the Year. 2022 All-ACC First Team selection. ACC All-Freshman Team 2019. All-ACC Third Team 2020. Nineteen career goals and 34 career assists.

Clara Robbins – Midfielder – Four-year starter. Finished career with 110 games played, the most in school history. 88 starts over six seasons with 17 career goals and 25 career assists. 2022 United Soccer Coaches All-Atlantic Region Second Team. All-ACC Second Team selection in 2022, 2021 and 2020.

Mia Justus – Goalkeeper – Transferred to Texas. Eight starts as a freshman in 2021 season with 0.38 goals against average and five shutouts. Six starts as a sophomore in 2022 with a 0.83 goals against average and four shutouts. Member of U.S. Soccer Youth National Team since 2015.
2023 Outlook – Brian Pensky faced a two edged sword when he took over the reigns of the FSU program from Mark Krikorian last year. On one hand he inherited a talented and experienced team and highly successful program. On the other hand despite arriving in Tallahassee with an impressive resume of his own as the head coach at Tennessee, he faced a rigid pass-fail measuring system in which anything less that meeting the high expectations that existed would be considered a failure.

Season opening ties with South Carolina and Auburn and a 4-0 loss to Notre Dame in early October created concerns but to his credit Pensky didn’t flinch. He did an excellent job of managing expectations and sorting out with his players what did and didn’t need to be changed while also fairly seamlessly navigating the challenges associated with a transition to a new coaching staff.

The Seminoles didn’t win the national championship last year but they did win both the ACC regular season and tournament titles, were awarded the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the College Cup thus meeting expectations and earning a solid passing grade for Pensky. The expectations remain high in 2023 but Pensky now has the advantage of having a successful season and year of experience in Tallahassee under his belt.

All the ingredients are on board for FSU to again be a force in the ACC and among the elite teams in the country in 2023. The biggest challenge looks to be replacing the big play ability and experience that midfielders Jenna Nighswonger (6g, 16a) and Clara Robbins (5g, 5a) brought to the pitch. Nighswonger’s 34 career assists rank as the second most in Florida State history while mainstay Robbins finished a banner tenure in Tallahassee with the most games played (110) in program history.

Players who were responsible for 53 of the 64 goals that Florida State scored in 2022 and 38 of the 59 assists are slated to return. Seniors Jody Brown (8g, 10) and Beata Olsson (6g, 3a) are back to power the attack up top. Brown, a 2022 United Soccer Coaches Association Third Team All-American and All-ACC First Team selection, is an explosive goal scorer with the quickness that makes her very difficult to contain. Olsson, a 2021 All-ACC Second Team and 2022 All-ACC Third Team member, is a crafty goal scorer who adds another dimension to the attack. Sophomore forward Olivia Garcia (3g, 5a) who played in 20 games last year with four starts is among other very capable finishers. Senior Lily Farkas who transfers in from the University of Michigan adds another ingredient to what should be a very potent and balanced offense.

The midfield will have a different look without Nighswonger and Robbins but should again be very good with playmaker Onyi Echegini (11g, 6a), holding midfielder LeiLanni Nesbeth (6g, 2a), Ran Iwai (1g, 0a), Maria Alagoa (3g, 3a), Kaitlyn Zipay (2g, 1a) and Emma Bissell (3g, 2a) among a solid contingent of returning midfielders. Junior Taylor Huff, a transfer from Tennessee where she was a 2022 All-SEC First Team selection and a United Soccer Coaches Third Team All-American with five goals and seven assists, is a big time addition who should contribute right away.

The backline should again be solid with senior Lauren Flynn (1g, 0a), a three-year starter, and sophomore Heather Gilchrist, a 2022 All-ACC Freshman Team selection, returning at center back along with senior right back back Heather Payne (4g, 4a), a 2022 All-ACC Third Team member, and sophomore Sophia Nguyen (1g, 1a) who played in 20 contests in 2022 with nine starts. Junior defender Claire Rain, a junior transfer and two year starter at Tennessee, is among the newcomers who should make an immediate impact.

Senior All-American and three-year starter Cristina Roque returns to give the Noles an extremely talented, confident, and composed presence in goal. Rogue has a 0.639 goals against average and 26 shutouts over the past three seasons.

Staying ahead of the curve in the highly competitive ACC and on the national scene is not easy. National prominence, despite the success the program has had in the past, is never a given but FSU is among the programs that replaces talent as opposed to lamenting its loss. Accordingly, there is every reason to believe the Seminoles will again have the talent, experience, athleticism, and depth to once again be in the thick of the ACC race and a national contender in 2023. Anything else will be a disappointment.

Amelia Van Zanten – Defender – Kildeer, Illinois – Stevenson High School – Played for Eclipse Select

Clarie Rain – Defender – Tampa, Florida – H.B. Plant High School – A junior transfer from Tennessee where she was a starter in 2022 and 2021. 2021 SEC All-Freshman Team selection. Played club soccer for Tampa Bay United Rowdies.

Taylor Huff – Midfielder – Mansfield, Ohio – Madison Comprehensive High School – Junior transfer from Tennessee where she was a starter in 2021 and 2022. Had ten goals and six assists in 2021. Had five goals and seven assists in 2022. 2021 All-SEC Second Team. 2022 All-SEC First Team. 2022 United Soccer Coaches Third Team All-American. 2021 SEC Freshman of the Year and SEC Second Team member. 2022 SEC First Team selection.

Jordynn Dudley – Forward – Alpharetta, Georgia – Cambridge High School – Played for United Futbol Academy. Member U.S. U19 National Team.

Maggie Taitano – Defender/Midfielder – Carlsbad, California – San Marcos High School – Played for San Diego Surf. U-17 Women’s National Team.

Peyton Nourse – Midfielder – Centennial, Colorado – Cherry Creek High School – Played for Colorado Rush. U-17 National Camp.

Lily Farkas – Forward – Kansas City, Missouri – St. Teresa’s Academy – A senior transfer from the University of Michigan where she played in 18 games with 17 starts in 2022. During four seasons at Michigan she played in a total of 68 games with 26 starts with seven career goals and nine career assists. A member of the Hungarian National Team in 2018.
Posted in 2023 Team Reviews

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