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Plenty of soccer left, but FSU’s seniors to be honored Thursday

Jaelin Howell came to Florida State to learn from the coaching staff, compete for national titles and prepare for a pro career.

A national championship, a national runner-up and appearances with the U.S. national team have helped Howell achieve goals and set her on a path in pro and international soccer.

“We’ll watch film sometimes, freshman year, I look at myself and think, ‘Who’s that?’ It’s crazy,” Howell recalled on Tuesday afternoon. “On the field, technically, tactically, they’re super smart. The best coaches in the country that way. But I think more off the field, just learning leadership and how to be a good teammate and stuff like that. Mark (Krikorian) and the coaching staff have really specialized in that and helped me grow as a person and as a player.”

Howell, Gabby Carle and Gianna Mitchell will be honored on Senior Night in what is the final regular-season match for the Seminoles in 2021. No. 3 FSU (14-1-1) will face No. 1 Virginia (15-1-1) on Thursday at 7 p.m. There will be home games ahead for FSU in the ACC Tournament and of course NCAA Tournament games in Tallahassee, too.

But Thursday’s game is a fitting “thank you” to three Seminoles who have given the program so many memories as well as ACC titles and a national championship in 2018.

“G (Gianna) has just been here for a short amount of time but the contributions she has made to our team and our team and our program isn’t lost on me,” Krikorian said. “She has been a great addition to our team, both on the field and in the locker room. Gabby’s contributions are obvious, she walked in the door as a starter and had a great impact for us from the beginning. J (Jaelin) is just continuing to develop into a kid that’s going to be heard from on the U.S. national team moving forward.

“All three will go on and play as pros and have an opportunity to continue on their career after they are done here. But their maturity, their leadership and their growth in the program, it’s not lost on me.”

Mitchell has five goals and an assist in 2021, adding depth the last few seasons following a transfer from Boston College. Carle has two goals, five assists and anchored the defense. Howell has two goals and an assist but is a creator in the midfield and won the Mac Hermann Trophy (presented to the nation’s top women’s soccer player) in the 2020-21 season. 

“I think this class is very special,” Howell said. “I’m a little biased. I’ve gone through the last four years with them. They’re amazing players but most importantly amazing people. I think the most important thing is being here for four years, all of us have learned different leadership skills to help the team on and off the field. Going forward that’s what we’re going to try and bring the rest of the year knowing it’s not easy to get to a national championship because that first year winning it and then going to another and losing it, we know it can slip through your fingers pretty easy. We’re just going to bring all of our experience and leadership and give it all we have.”

FSU was shorthanded over the weekend, playing without Maria Alagoa (Portugal), Carle (Canada) and Heather Payne (Ireland) as they played for their national teams. Krikorian said a few of the players were still en route back to Tallahassee and it was to be determined if they would play on Thursday.

A tie at North Carolina on Thursday and a loss at Duke on Sunday halted an unblemished start for the Seminoles, but they have always had their eye on the big picture and what can be achieved in the NCAA postseason.

“I think you learn more through losing than you do winning,” Howell said. “And I think it was good that we played top-level teams. And to be able to face adversity before heading into the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament I think it helped us prepare more and we learned a lot of lessons. We’ll apply it to the next games.”