Florida State soccer: Onyi Echegini debuts in ACC with hat trick, earns Offensive Player of Week

Ehsan Kassim
Tallahassee Democrat

Onyi "Joe" Echegini wanted to play in the ACC.

That was her stated goal she set for herself when she entered the transfer portal following three seasons for Mississippi State in the SEC.

In her conference debut last Friday, the senior proved No. 7 Florida State (5-0-1, 1-0 ACC) and first-year coach Brian Pensky correct in her fit in the ACC with a hat trick in a 6-0 victory over Boston College.

Her performance earned her ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors. She was also named to the College Soccer News Team of the Week.

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"Honestly, it was a great feeling," Echegini said. "I don't care about scoring too much, as long as we win. My confidence from my scoring perspective hasn't been there recently."

Friday's victory over the Eagles was the fourth consecutive shutout for the Seminoles. They will look to extend that streak to five with home matches against Louisville (4-1-2, 1-0) Thursday at 7 p.m. and No. 14 Clemson (5-1-2, 1-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday.

This will mark the first time FSU will play consecutive matches at home this season.

"We're super excited," Echegini said. "The energy and the atmosphere the supporters bring, it's an incredible environment to be in. It's just a different game."

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The transfer

At Mississippi State, Echegini played in 42 games, including 35 starts. She scored 11 goals and added six assists for a total of 28 points playing midfield.

Following last season, she decided she wanted to transfer. Right away, a move to the ACC was on her radar.

That made her debut even more gratifying for Pensky.

"She left Mississippi State, but also left the SEC wanting to come to the ACC," Penksy said. "That was a state goal of hers. It's what she wanted. There were some ACC schools, slash, all ACC teams that passed on her. And now here she is. We're thankful for it and glad she's here.

"She just needs to keep being Joe, as simple as that. ... Hopefully she can continue to be Joe and the goals will keep coming."

Echegini said she never visited campus before her decision to transfer to Tallahassee, nor did she meet with her future teammates.

Rather, the SEC connection led her to the new conference.

"I actually did not visit. The summer was crazy for me," Echegini said. "But I knew Brian Pensky from Tennessee. I was also talking to Tennessee before coming over here. I knew a bit about him, I trusted him and liked him as a coach. 

"I feel like especially as an international player, your coach is your first point of contact and they give me the confidence. I felt secure."

Despite the new team, Echegini said she feels comfortable with her new teammates.

"I feel like I have transitioned smoothly," she said. "The team is all really nice, so that has allowed me to transition really reasonably."

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Hat trick

The last time Echegini scored a hat trick? Well, let's just say not anytime recently.

"Probably when I was 8 or something," she said. "When it was easier and stuff like that. It's been a while."

Echegini became the 16th Seminole to score a hat trick and it was the 20th hat trick in program history, which dates back to 1995.

The last hat trick for FSU came from Deyna Castellanos against UNC-Greensboro in 2017.

"To be able to score a hat trick made me feel better,"  Echegini said. "It has given me a bit more confidence. I didn't really have that before I came here."

Echegini came out aggressive. She scored her first goal from left edge of the 18-yard box, firing a shot to top right corner of the net across the BC keeper’s face just over a minute into the match.

She added another goal 10 minutes later from eight yards out on an assist from Jody Brown. Echegini completed the hat trick in the 55th minute on a one-on-one attempt from seven yards out.

Echegini scoring the two first half goals set the tone Pensky has been seeking from the team that had scored just seven of its 19 goals heading into the BC match in the first half.

"To get that first one (a minute four seconds into the game), sometimes that old adage, you don't want to score too quickly because it takes your foot off the petal and puts the other teams foot on the petal a little harder," Pensky said.

"The second one I thought was obviously a big deal."

Following her hat trick, Echegini now leads the team with five goals. Her 10 points ties her with Jenna Nighswonger for the team lead.

Twelve different players have scored for the Seminoles this season, including seven with at least two goals.

Florida State has outscored opponents 21-0 during its four-game winning streak and allowed just two goals through seven matches.

"Watching our games from South Carolina to Boston College, just the overall confidence of the team, just watching us play there is such a difference from when we go out there," Echegini said. "We just go out there with so much confidence, so much more passion. I think it's evident in how we play."

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Nigerian National Team

Echegini mentioned a busy summer. Well, she was playing for Nigeria's national team.

She got in a pair of friendly matches, playing 11 minutes in a 2-0 loss to Canada in April and 45 minutes against the U.S. in a 2-1 loss on Sept. 2. She did not record any statistics in either match.

Echegini missed matches against Florida and Florida Gulf Coast while away with the national team. All five of her goals have come following her return.

"I am just grateful to have had the opportunity to be called up," Echegini said. "I didn't expect to start my second day I was there, to be able to play against people I watched growing up.

"I vividly remember watching the World Cup, I was watching people like Alex Morgan and Rose Lavelle, people like that. The a couple of years later to be playing against them, I never imagined that. 

"Playing against people like that, they're incredible. But that's what I want to do as well. I want to be able to play like that when I go pro. It's good practice, small steps, but good practice."


Who: No. 7 FSU (5-0-2, 1-0 ACC) vs. Boston College (4-1-2, 1-0)

When/where: Thursday, 7 p.m.; Seminole Soccer Complex

TV/Radio: ACC Network Extra

Reach Ehsan Kassim at ekassim@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).

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