What brought back FSU soccer vet Clara Robbins and how has she helped new coach Brian Pensky?
It was roller coaster of an offseason for redshirt senior Clara Robbins and the Florida State soccer team.
Riding high off her second NCAA Division I Soccer National Championship, the defender and midfielder experienced something that she had never felt since becoming a Seminole:
A coaching change.
Through the coaching swap of Mark Krikorian for newly-hired Brian Pensky, Robbins reflected on all the encounters she faced since joining the team in 2016. It ultimately led her to return.
"It's been great," she said.
"It doesn't even feel like my seventh season is coming up. It's been flying by. I've had so many different experiences each year and I've learned as I've gone on in my career that led me to where I'm at today.
"I'm so thankful for it and couldn't be more thankful for Florida State and the support staff."
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'The plan all along'
In wake of Krikorian's departure and Pensky's hire, Robbins and a host of teammates entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.
It seemed that they would part ways, but some decided to return for the 2022 season with an opportunity to run it back for another natty.
Robbins felt like her heart never wavered from FSU.
"I thought I would come back. That was the plan all along," Robbins said.
"We went through a lot and there was a lot of things to consider. I knew there would be a lot of change that came with coming back. I knew that I had to accept it and not be one foot in one foot out.
"It seemed like the right the decision to come and I'm happy with it."
A seamless process
It's been smooth sailing for the two-time ACC All-Tournament MVP.
The open mindedness has been mutual from players to Pensky.
Robbins even lent tips to Pensky on past matches to watch in order to learn the club's tendencies headed into the Aug. 18 opener at No. 12 South Carolina.
"Brian's been great and good about hearing what us players want and what we've been accustomed to, but also has been able to offer some things that we may haven't thought of before," Robbins said.
"It's meant a lot. The first day that the team met us, he took a chunk of time to single us out and how he knows us from years back. That really showed how much he paid attention and watched our team. He knew our team without knowing us. He was very open about hearing our feedback and what we value the most in this program.
"That was a good sign since we didn't get to train with him in the spring and had already dispersed when he was named coach. It's been a pretty smooth transition so far."
In this together
As the longest tenured on the FSU's soccer team paired with a new coach, Robbins is entering the season with even more responsibility on her plate with a goal of capturing the program's fourth championship -- all since 2014.
"I've already come in with the mindset that I need to step up a little bit more this year," Robbins said.
Ten of 21 upperclassmen makes up the Seminoles 2022 roster. The guidance of the team's veterans can be equally delegated across the roster.
"We're looking to all of the veterans on the team -- not just me. Something that's been instilled in our program for long is that we don't just single out the older players. We use the experience from the younger players and trust everyone.
"It's going to be a team effort, for sure."
Gerald Thomas III covers FAMU athletics for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @3peatgee.
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