How new FSU soccer coach Brian Pensky will fuse his coaching style with old ways of team

Gerald Thomas III
Tallahassee Democrat

It's unique for a national championship-winning programto experience a major coaching transition.

Florida State women's soccer is  living that reality for the first time in nearly two decades.

The defending champs enter the season No. 1 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason 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 when a new coach comes into a situation in which we've been so successful as a team," veteran midfielder Clara Robbins said Tuesday. 

"He took the mindset of coming in and not wanting to change a whole lot for our sake -- especially with the season coming so soon. I think it's very important for the older players to help him along the way and teach him what we're used to, then for him to decide what he wants to change and keep going."

Former FSU coach  Mark Krikorian, who suddenly resigned last April, followed a successful blueprint that led to national titles in 2014, 2018 and 2021.

Pensky - a former SEC, ACC and National Coach of the Year - has experienced success, too. He also knows what he's facing.

"We knew that when we came here, we had to jump two feet in the pool's deep end," Pensky said.  "I'm just glad we're here at day one of soccer."


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Brian Pensky rejoices during a game while at Tennesee

'Be Brian Pensky'

Coming to a team that has tasted so much success could be challenging.

Pensky, however, stressed he  is going to stay true to who he is as a coach instead of attempting to emulate what Krikorian was to FSU.

"I can't be Mark or try to be," Pensky said.

"I got to be Brian Pensky. If I do that, they're going to get the best version of me and that's what they need."

After filling out his staff with former MLS player Brian Shuttleworth and Richmond United ENCL Director Aaron Brunner, his next order of business is learning the players. 

"I've got to coach them," Pensky said.

"Mark recruited cerebral and technical players, so it's my job to use them to the best of my ability -- pick them up and cheer them up."

Florida State Seminoles Clara Robbins (26) passes to Florida State Seminoles Jody Brown (10). The Florida State Seminoles and the Brigham Young Cougars are tied after a scoreless first half of NCAA Championship game in Santa Clara, California on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.

Staying Put And Not Ring Chasing 

Robbins had a chance to leave FSU after the Krikorian departure, but the authenticity of Pensky lured her to return.

"He was very genuine and honest in all of the conversations," she said. "I thought that I'd be able to get along with him."

It's a one-game-at-a-time mode for Pensky.

While Seminoles, who open their season Aug. 18 at South Carolina, lost  key players from last year's team, they also return plenty of talent

The roster features established veterans in Robbins, Beata Olsson, Lauren Flynn, Jenna Nighswonger, Heather Payne, LeiLanni Nesbeth, Cristina Roque and Mia Justice. 

The Seminoles allowed only 13 goals in 25 games last season, punctuated by 14 shutouts - including five in the NCAA Tournament. They beat BYU in penalty kicks to win the national title. 

"The target is on the back," Pensky said.

"It's a place that no one in this program has ever been before. ...  If we're thinking and focusing on 'repeat, repeat, repeat,' we're not going to repeat."


Thursday, Aug, 18: at South Carolina, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 21: at Georgia, 1 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 25: Auburn, 6 p.m. ACCN

Sunday, Sept. 5: at Florida, 5 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 8: Florida Gulf Coast, 7 p.m. ACCNX

Sunday, Sept. 11: at Rice, 1 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 11: at Boston College, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 22: Louisville, 7 p.m., ACCNX

Sunday, Sept. 25: Clemson, 1 p.m., ACCNX

Saturday, Oct. 1: at Miami, 6 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 6: at Virginia, 8 p.m., ACCN

Sunday, Oct. 9: at Notre Dame, noon

Thursday, Oct. 13: Duke, 6 p.m., ACCN

Thursday, Oct. 20: North Carolina, 8 p.m., ACCN

Sunday, Oct. 23: at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 27:  Virginia Tech, 7 p.m., ACCNX

Sunday, Oct. 30: ACC Tournament quarterfinals (Campus sites)

Thursday, Nov. 3: ACC Tournament semifinals, Cary, N.C.

Sunday, Nov. 6: ACC Tournament finals, Cary N.C.

Gerald Thomas III covers FAMU athletics for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at gdthomas@gannett.com or on Twitter @3peatgee.

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