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After short offseason, No. 1 FSU soccer opens with No. 9 Texas A&M

It may not seem like that long ago, but it was three months ago the Florida State soccer team played Santa Clara in the national final of the NCAA Tournament. What ensued was an extremely short offseason as players looked to find rest before beginning preseason camp in Tallahassee for the 2021 season.

But it was also good preparation for the future for the Seminoles.

“It’s been an interesting turnaround, right?” FSU coach Mark Krikorian said. “We really encourage them to take about three weeks off after the national final and then to get back to training. As we’ve said before, one of the goals with the kids that are playing here is that they want to play as pros. And I think last year was a really good example for them to understand, ‘Look, if you want to be a pro, this is the level of commitment it’s going to take to be a pro.’ When the downtime comes, you need to take that time off but then you need to bounce back and get after it again.”

That time is approaching quickly. No. 1 FSU opens the season on Thursday at 7 p.m. against No. 9 Texas A&M and will finish the weekend by facing Alabama on Sunday at 1 p.m. Both games will stream live on ACC Network Extra.

The Seminoles return 10 of 11 starters from the NCAA Tournament in May — only Kristen McFarland, who turned pro, is gone. Jaelin Howell, who won the Mac Hermann Award as the nation’s top player, returns to the midfield while defender Gabby Carle is just weeks removed from a trip to Tokyo and playing with the gold-medal winning Canada team. Between Howell, Yujie Zhao, Clara Robbins, Jenna Nighswonger, Leilanni Nesbeth and Jodby Brown, the Seminoles return 97.6 percent of their goals and 86.7 percent of their assists.

It’s also among the reasons FSU is beginning the season with some challenging opponents.

“We’re a veteran team,” Krikorian said. “We’re a good team. These kids, they have big aspirations in the game and by going out and scheduling teams that aren’t going to challenge us. I don’t know what good it does for us, I don’t know what it does for the opponent.”

Carle reflects on Olympic experience

Carle had a shorter break than any of the Seminoles, participating in the Summer Olympics through the gold-medal win on Aug. 6 and then taking three days off back home in Montreal before returning to Tallahassee.

“It was a great experience,” Carle said. “It was a different Olympics for sure because of COVID but everything was worth it because we ended up winning gold. I’m so lucky to have teammates in Canada that are so experienced. I learned so much.”

Carle has made 26 appearances with Canada’s national team, and the redshirt senior says she credits the FSU staff for helping her change positions to set her up for the future.

“I started off as a winger here and they made me into a fullback,” Carle said. “I think it’s thanks to Florida State that I’m still on my national team and doing so well on the international stage.”

Carle said she didn’t expect to get the extra year at FSU but will of course benefit from the COVID season and will be a super senior. Now she has time to finish up her bachelor’s degree and show off her gold medal before the season begins.

“It’s here,” Carle said when asked if the gold medal was in Tallahassee or back in Canada. “I don’t think Mark would have been very happy if I had not let him see the medal and obviously the whole team. I’m so happy to be able to give them that. I’m very happy to show anyone that wants to see it.”

Notes

Krikorian said Tuesday afternoon that he hasn’t finalized a starting lineup but expected that four or five freshmen would have the opportunity to play against Texas A&M.

FSU is 20-5-1 all-time on opening day, including 14-1-1 at home in the season opener.

The Seminoles play host to Florida on Sept. 2 and open a 10-game ACC schedule against Boston College on Sept. 18.

FSU is 289-67-30 (.788 winning percentage) since Krikorian arrived in 2005.

The 2021 schedule can be viewed here.

FSU’s 2020 stats can be viewed here.