A little over a year ago, reserve goalkeeper Caroline Jeffers entered the 2018 ACC Championship game in the 62ndminute as a replacement for the injured Brooke Bollinger.
After shutting the door on the Tar Heels in that match, Jeffers went on to have five shutout victories in the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back shutouts against fellow powerhouses Stanford and North Carolina en route to the Seminoles’ second national title.
One season later, the redshirt senior from Windermere, Fla., has the upmost confidence that the Seminoles will be able to do it again.
“It’s the players that we’ve brought back this season,” Jeffers explained. “We have so many players from all over the world – we are so different compared to a lot of the other teams and I think that helps us a lot.”
After leading the ’Noles to the national title last year, Jeffers has started 18 games this season. The team has a 13-5 record with her in the net and she has 46 saves on the season with a 68 percent save percentage going into the NCAA tournament second-round game against Brown on Friday at 5 p.m.
Although the save percentage is likely not where she’d like it to be, she has had to face the pinnacle of competition for the sport. All five losses on Jeffers’ resume this season have been dealt by teams in the top five.
“They just help us learn,” Jeffers said. “Most of them were early on in the season and we’ve grown so much from those losses. I think if we face them again, we know what we need to fix and we know that we can beat them.”
The experience has been invaluable to not only Jeffers but also the entire Florida State squad. According to head coach Mark Krikorian, it’s the reason why you play a tough schedule.
“We play a very competitive schedule for a reason,” Krikorian said. “We had the chance to measure ourselves against a lot of good teams. Some games we won, some games we lost. Now our group is back in its whole, and we have all of our national team players back for the stretch run.”
It’s the aforementioned stretch run that Jeffers feels right at home in, diving in head first into the postseason when she was called upon last year.
“It really helped me gain confidence,” Jeffers admitted. “Even though that was very unfortunate for our team, me stepping in and having everyone else around me really helped me grow in that position and keep that confidence throughout the season.”
Krikorian was quick to praise Jeffers for her work.
“Caroline has done a great job for us,” Krikorian said. “She’s a very steady kid – a level-headed kid – and I think it has reflected in her play as well. I think for Caroline and the rest of the returning players, last year they had the opportunity to go through the tournament format and understand the different pressures that come with it.”
If anyone on the team knows something about pressure, it would be Jeffers. Six of her first seven starts at Florida State came in the NCAA tournament run last year. She missed the entire 2017 season with an injury after transferring from East Carolina. Yet the intense pressure has brought overwhelming success.
When asked if she ever thought she would have this much success at Florida State, she couldn’t help but laugh.
“Not at all,” Jeffers said. “Honestly, I knew that I needed to work hard, show up every day and maybe an opportunity would come. I really never pictured this, but it’s been great.”
Caroline is a redshirt senior at FSU, meaning that these last few games are her last hoorahs in a Seminoles uniform. She is adamant, however, that she will never forget these experiences with her teammates.
“Obviously the national championship is the biggest memory, but I think building so many relationships with these girls (is what I’ll remember most). I’ll be friends with them forever.”
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