Florida State soccer: 7th year player Clara Robbins prepares for final regular season home game

Ehsan Kassim
Tallahassee Democrat

Seven seasons. Two NCAA National Championships.

That's been Clara Robbins' legacy with Florida State women's soccer.

Robbins will appear in her final home game as a Seminole when No. 5 FSU (11-2-2, 6-1 ACC) hosts Virginia Tech (10-5-2, 4-4-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Seminole Soccer Complex.

Robbins, along with fellow seniors Jenna Nighswonger and Heather Payne will be honored pregame for senior night.

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"I can't believe that," Robbins said. "I don't think it's fully hit me yet. I think it's definitely starting to set in. But I think the main thing is you just have to focus on winning, you have to focus on going out and competing.

"Obviously, I want to enjoy my last game, the last regular season game at home. Just want to go out there and have fun. And I think we will do that and we'll compete well."

Robbins signed with the Seminoles in 2016 out of Colonial Forge High School in Stafford County, Va. She redshirted in 2016, had a medical redshirt in 2018 and got an extra year of eligibility due to COVID.

Thursday will be her 103rd career match, which ties Carson Pickett (2012-15, Michaela Hahn (2012-15) and Jamia Fields (2011-14).

She will tie Kristin Grubka (2011-15) in her first match of the ACC Tournament and pass her with 105 games in the next game.

"That's really cool," Robbins said. "It's definitely a different way to set a mark for the school. But I'm really appreciative of it and all the opportunities I've been given to play and all the matches I've been able to play. I've enjoyed every minute of it."

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Never a doubt in return

Legendary coach Mark Krikorian resigned after leading the Seminoles to their third national championship and second in four seasons. Brian Pensky was hired as his replacement.

While Robbins and many teammates entered the NCAA Transfer Portal during the coaching search process. But Robbins never seriously considered leaving.

Nor does she regret the decision now.

"I don't regret it at all," she said. "Yeah, I mean, I don't think I even really considered leaving. Florida State will always have a special place in my heart. Just to come back and play one last season, knowing it was my last season, so that I could just appreciate all of that. I think that was really good."

Robbins was on the 2018 and 2021 national championship teams. She won ACC Tournament MVP in 2020 and 2021. 

She scored the game-winning goal in the 10th minute against No. 1 Virginia in the ACC Tournament Championship last season.

Robbins has started in 81 of the 103 games she has played in and has scored 15 goals while assisting on 23 others.

For Pensky, leaning on the seniors, especially Robbins, helped him assimilate his coaching with the defending champions without being overbearing.

"Two national championships, a bunch of ACC championships, two ACC tournament MVP honors. She's got a lot and is an engaged young woman," Pensky said. "So there's a lot to Clara. I actually spent a lot of time with her yesterday just talking about this past weekend's game and then talking about life and her future. 

"She's a wonderful person and can have a long life in this game, if she chooses to do so."

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Best yet to come?

Robbins has been part of two national championship teams, so she has an idea of what a championship caliber team looks like.

When asked about her favorite moment of her senior season, Robbins warned it may still be ahead.

"Honestly all of it has been great," she said. "I think this team is really special. We do have such a small squad and I think that's allowed us to get really close and to enjoy our time together. So I think just being able to see everybody, every day, some new faces, some old faces I've known for so long. I think just getting to spend some time with them before I leave has been really great.

"But I don't think we've had our best, my best memory, yet."

Why is Robbins confident in this year's iteration of the team.

"I think something about all of those teams, I think we're all very tight knit. And we had a really great culture," Robbins said. "I think we have that every year that I've been here, but especially in those teams. I think that we have that here this season as well. So I'm really looking forward to what we can make out of it and how far we can take it."

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Emotional night

Thursday will be an interesting night for Robbins. It will be her 103rd career match and her final home regular season match.

The match will also have grave importance for FSU for ACC standings, ACC tournament seedings and seedings for the NCAA tournament.

"I don't know. I've been kind of telling myself, 'don't cry, don't cry,'" she said. "So we'll see if I can do it. But no, I mean, just the atmosphere here is always so great. And I love playing on this field and playing with this team and the white jerseys. And I think it's going to be a really great time."

Robbins said she finished her graduate degree in exercise physiology in December and is finishing up her Athletic Coaching certificate.

She added her parents, a couple of my brothers and some cousins will be at the game.

"I've honestly been overwhelmed with how much support I've received from my family and my friends. And even after seven years they are still supporting me and didn't get tired," Robbins said.

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Pro career?

Robbins' soccer career won't end at the conclusion of this FSU season.

She said she has had discussions about pursuing a career in the National Women's Soccer League here in America or going to play in Europe.

"That's actually been something that I've been thinking about a little bit more lately," Robbins said. "Obviously, time is ticking a little bit. But I have a season here to finish out and it's definitely in the back of my mind, but I haven't quite made up my mind."

Pensky added he expects to talk to Robbins more about it following the season.

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ACC seedings scenarios

The Seminoles enter the regular season finale in a good spot to earn a top two seed in the ACC tournament, despite a loss to North Carolina. 

FSU, UNC and Notre Dame enter the final game tied with a 7-2 conference record. While the Tar Heels and Irish have head-to-head victories over the Seminoles, they have not faced each other this season, taking away the first tie-breaker in case of a three-way tie.

The second tiebreaker comes down to ACC goal differential. FSU and UNC are both plus-14, while Notre Dame is plus-13. In case the teams are tied in that scenario, goals scored in ACC played would be the next tiebreaker. FSU (23) enters the finale with a lead over UNC (20) and Notre Dame (18) in that.

The Tar Heels play at Louisville at 6 p.m., while the Irish play host to Duke at 8 p.m.

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Who: No. 5 FSU (11-2-2, 6-1 ACC) vs. Virginia Tech (10-5-2, 4-4-1)

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

TV: ACC Network Extra

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