It’s unique for a national championship winning program to go through a major coaching transition.
Florida State women’s soccer is experiencing this reality for the first time in nearly two decades.
The defending champions enter season No. 1 in the United Soccer Coaches pre-season poll under first-year coach Brian Pensky. The former Tennessee coach has his own style, but expectations remain the same as FSU opens practice this week.
“It’s very rare that a new manager finds himself in a situation where we’ve been so successful as a team,” veteran midfielder Clara Robbins said on Tuesday.
“He took on the mindset of coming and not wanting to change much for us – especially with the season coming so soon. I think it’s very important that the older players help him out. along the way and teach him what we’ve become used to, so it’s up to him to decide what he wants to change and move on.”
Former FSU coach Mark Krikorian, who suddenly resigned last April, followed a successful plan that led to national titles in 2014, 2018 and 2021.
Pensky – a former SEC, ACC and National Coach of the Year – has also found success. He also knows what he is up against.
“We knew when we got here we had to jump two feet into the deep end of the pool,” Pensky said. “I’m just glad we’re here on the first day of football.”
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“Be Brian Pensky”
Coming to a team that has been so successful could be difficult.
Pensky, however, stressed that he was going to stay true to who he is as a coach instead of trying to emulate what Krikorian was for FSU.
“I can’t be Mark or try to be,” Pensky said.
“I have to be Brian Pensky. If I do that, they’re going to have the best version of me and that’s what they need.”
After completing his squad with former MLS player Brian Shuttleworth and Richmond United ENCL manager Aaron Brunner, his next task is to learn players.
“I have to train them,” Pensky said.
“Mark has brought in cerebral and technical players, so it’s my job to use them to the best of my abilities – pick them up and cheer them up.”
Stay put and don’t run after
Robbins was lucky to leave FSU after Krikorian left, but Pensky’s authenticity prompted her to return.
“He was very genuine and honest in every conversation,” she said. “I thought I could get along with him.”
It’s a one game at a time mode for Pensky.
While the Seminoles, who open their season Aug. 18 in South Carolina, have lost key players from last year’s team, they’re also coming back with plenty of talent.
The list includes established veterans in Robbins, Beata Olsson, Lauren Flynn, Jenna Nighswonger, Heather Payne, LeiLanni Nesbeth, Cristina Roque and Mia Justice.
The Seminoles allowed just 13 goals in 25 games last season, punctuated by 14 shutouts – including five in the NCAA Tournament. They beat BYU on penalties to win the national title.
“The target is in the back,” Pensky said.
“It’s a place no one in this program has gone before. … If we think and focus on ‘repeat, rehearse, rehearse,’ we’re not going to rehearse.”
Thursday, August 18: in South Carolina, 7 p.m.
Sunday, August 21: at Georgia, 1 p.m.
Thursday, August 25: Auburn, 6 p.m. ACCN
Sunday, September 5: in Florida, 5 p.m.
Thursday, September 8: Florida Gulf Coast, 7 p.m. ACCNX
Sunday, Sept. 11: at Rice, 1 p.m.
Friday, September 11: at Boston College, 4 p.m.
Thursday, September 22: Louisville, 7 p.m., ACCNX
Sunday, September 25: Clemson, 1 p.m., ACCNX
Saturday, October 1: in Miami, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 6: at Virginia, 8 p.m., ACCN
Sunday, October 9: at Notre Dame, noon
Thursday, October 13: Duke, 6 p.m., ACCN
Thursday, October 20: North Carolina, 8 p.m., ACCN
Sunday, October 23: in Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Thursday, October 27: Virginia Tech, 7 p.m., ACCNX
Sunday, October 30: ACC Tournament Quarter-Finals (campus)
Thursday, November 3: ACC Tournament Semi-Finals, Cary, North Carolina
Sunday, November 6: ACC Tournament Finals, Cary NC
Gerald Thomas III covers FAMU athletics for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @3peatgee.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FSU Soccer: Pensky enters 1st season as coach as they rehearse