Florida State soccer: Beata Olsson decided to return after peppering Brian Pensky with questions

Ehsan Kassim
Tallahassee Democrat

One hand kept raising the first night Florida State soccer head coach Brian Pensky met the team following his hiring.

The hand belonged to junior Beata Olsson, the leading scorer for the 2021 FSU National Championship team. 

Like the forward's scoring prowess, the questions came swiftly and were persistent. 

"It was like almost like I was still on the plane down here and she was already firing away questions," Pensky said. "She doesn't mince her words and is not afraid to ask any question."

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For Pensky, he developed an instant liking to Olsson.

For Olsson, after she got some of her questions answered that night and the rest as Pensky learned about the program, it helped build the relationship between the two.

"I'm really happy with Brian," Olsson said. "He's a great person, a great coach and I think he can really build something here. So for me, like I think that my expectations have been exceeded for Brian."

Olsson has helped lead FSU (1-0-2) to an unbeaten start. The Seminoles take on rival Florida (2-3) in Gainsville, Olsson's old stomping ground, at 5 p.m. Sunday.

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Another coaching change

The reason for the amount of questions Olsson had for her new coach was because she had been through the process before.

"I wasn't surprised to see her hand up every time she had a question, but it was good," redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Cristina Roque said. "She knows what everyone else is thinking too. So she's not only asking it for herself, she's asking for the team."

Olsson, who is from Enkoping, Sweden, committed to the University of Florida in 2019. She played her freshman season with the Gators, leading the team with seven goals and finishing second in points (14) and assists (5).

Florida head coach Becky Burleigh retired at the end of the 2021 season. Her decision to retire led Olsson to the transfer portal.

Olsson, not fully aware of the rivalry between the two programs, signed with FSU. It was a major signing as she led the team with 29 points and 14 goals en route to the program's third national championship.

"it was actually it was easier than I thought, the transition," she said. "I had really good coaches at Florida. Becky really helped me get here. I think that the transition was easy because I've only been surrounded by good people and for me, the schools aren't very different, which might be wrong to say. For me, as a player. I fit very well here."

Following the national championship, unexpected news hit the program when legendary Florida State soccer coach Mark Krikorian decided to step away from the program.

"I wasn't really prepared for it," she said. "No one saw it coming. But I know that I've done it before, so I could do it again. And I didn't expect it at all, I think it was a bit of a shock like both for me and the team, of course everything."

Olsson was joined by teammates Jenna Nighswonger, Lauren Flynn, Heather Payne, LeiLanni Nesbeth and Clara Robbins in the portal.

"A lot of my questions were about how he was as a coach and how he would use our qualities at the best of his knowledge," Olsson said. "So it was a mix between like football and how he is as a person, and I tend to ask a lot of questions. But I think it helped that I've been through it once and I've asked those questions before to another coach."

After a few talks with Pensky, the majority of the team decided it was right to return.

Olsson said within a month, she had made the decision to return.

"I think he answered them at his best ability at the time," she said. "And of course, some of them he couldn't because it was his first day on the job. But he was really good at getting back to me and the team afterwards. Everything he felt that he needed to answer to us. He set up meetings and he texted us on Teams. He did everything he could to like, clear out any thing that might have been an issue or question."

For Pensky, the questions were never a nuisance. Rather he respected that Olsson was ready to advocate for herself after being in the same situation once.

"I just joked with Beata about this the other day. If I got 30 questions that night, probably 15 of them came from Beata," Pensky said. "I love that. It made me instantly respect her. 

"How she kind of advocates for herself and for teammates and she's got the courage and the gumption to do so. And if you're going to be great at anything, you've got to have courage and gumption and she is incredibly courageous."

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UF rivalry

Sunday will mark Olsson's first return to the field she called home her freshman season, but it won't be the first time she plays against her old college.

Last season she scored two goals in a 5-2 win over the Gators in Tallahassee.

"I didn't know about the (rivalry) before," Olsson said. "When I transferred here, I hadn't really grasped it either. Playing last year and us winning here, I know there's a big thing about it and a lot of people coming to watch it."

Her FSU teammates reminded Olsson throughout the week last season of the importance of the game and what it meant.

But Roque, who is from Winter Park, Florida, said it was probably when Olsson took the field the first time it hit her.

"Once she saw the people around, I think she was kind of just ready to go out there and play," Roque said. "She obviously showed that with her bicycle kick and she represented the team very well."

Why did Olsson pick Florida in the first place?

"I like the heat," Olsson said. "In Sweden it snows in the winter. I wanted to get away from that."

National team

Olsson has already played for the Sweden U-19 National Team, where she scored seven goals during U-19 UEFA Championships qualification play, the Sweden U-18 level and U-17 National Team.

Her ultimate goal is to play on Sweden women's national football team.

"I think that everything I do is working toward being the best I can be," she said. "That's obviously playing on the best team. Sweden's national team is the best team you can play for Sweden on the national level. I think that's absolutely a goal for me."

Contact Ehsan Kassim at 256-300-5313 or ekassim@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim.