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Soccer preview: Howell a centerpiece of FSU’s veteran-led team

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Some of Jaelin Howell’s earliest memories are of playing soccer. And, looking back, Howell can laugh about how she didn’t love the sport.

“I played a lot of sports,” Howell said. “First couple of years I didn’t love it. I wasn’t that good at it and I continued to pursue it just because of the teams I was on. By the time I was 7 or 8, I developed a love for it.”

Howell was captivated by the sport, looking up to the U.S. women’s national team players and how they were growing the sport. And it wasn’t long before Howell was on the national stage herself, competing in the under-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2016 and the under-20 Women’s World Cup in 2018.

A native of Lone Tree, Colo., Howell made visits to college soccer programs across the nation. Tallahassee felt comfortable and she quickly made a connection with Florida State coach Mark Krikorian and the coaching staff.

“What stood out to Tallahassee is just the college town environment,” Howell said. “I love that. I loved how much the fans supported the soccer team and all the teams. I really valued that. It’s a great community where everyone would come together and show support. 

“Another huge draw for me was the coaching staff, they’re so professional. I don’t think you can find a more professional college soccer team. That’s what Mark will tell you is he treats us like pros.”

A junior midfielder, Howell has brought a professional mindset from the start. Howell is part of a veteran Florida State team that opens a 10-game ACC-only schedule on Thursday night against Notre Dame (8 p.m. on the ACC Network). The Seminoles also feature Kristen McFarland, Yujie Zhao, Jenna Nighswonger, Abbey Newton, Malia Berkely and Gabby Carle.

Howell has commanded the midfield, handling the responsibilities of distributor, attacker and defender. 

“Playing mid is a pretty crucial position,” Howell said. “It’s a lot of attacking and defending. Being a leader on the field and, since you can see the whole field, directing traffic. It’s about getting the best out of your teammates in terms of directing traffic and being that leader, a quarterback to help everyone out with positioning.”

Howell has started 47 games the last two seasons, helping the Seminoles secure 26 shutouts. She was an All-ACC first-team pick last season because of her defense as well as scoring five goals and adding four assists.

“She’s a natural leader in that she leads by example,” Krikorian said. “She’s as competitive as it gets. She’s fighting all the time to be the best she can. She takes great pride in her fitness and making sure that she’s giving her finest effort. I’ve seen a great deal of growth from her and she’d been very open-minded, very willing to listen. And some of the subtleties of the game she’s really starting to pick up. And I think that she has an enormous future and great career in front of her.”

Howell, whose major is sociology and is also pursuing a minor in public administration, would like to play professional soccer after graduation from FSU. She would also like to go into coaching or be an athletics director.

Her parents, both of whom were athletes, have had a chance to enjoy Jaelin’s games, too. Howell’s dad, John, played seven years in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (winning a Super Bowl in 2002) and Seattle Seahawks. Her mom, Laura, played two years of volleyball at a Division II school.

“I’m the first one in my family who played soccer,” Howell said. “I think it’s really cool. My whole family is learning about the game. They are huge fans. My dad now watches soccer all the time. I think a lot of times he honestly likes watching soccer more than football on TV. We can talk about it. My mom, too. It’s pretty cool.”

Soccer, for Howell and her family, is fun.

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