FSU brings international flavor
KENNESAW, Ga. -- It's to Florida State's good fortune that college soccer doesn't follow professional hockey's lead in sending its championship trophy on tour to the hometowns of those responsible for winning it. Should the Seminoles win their first national title, the global celebration that ensued in such a scenario would surely break the budget.
When Florida State takes the field Friday against Stanford, they will most likely send out more starters from Europe than Florida, with Belgium's Janice Cayman, France's Ines Juarena and Iceland's Dagny Brynjarsdottir outnumbering Floridians Toni Pressley and Kelsey Wys. Should Mark Krikorian need to call on his bench for international support, Japan's Hikaru Murakami and England's Marta Bakowska-Mathews will be waiting.
By way of comparison, the rosters available from the ACC's other 10 schools include a handful of Canadians and just one player, Clemson's Icelandic freshman Jona Kristin Hauksdottir, from beyond North America.
Florida State isn't short on talent made in the USA. All-conference selections Tiffany McCarty and Tori Huster hail from such exotic locations as Laurel, Md., and Cincinnati, respectively, while Pressley is a mainstay of the U.S. youth national program and Wys has seen her share of time playing for her country. The talent pool just doesn't stop at water's edge.
"We don't limit our scope of recruiting to simply domestic players," Florida State coach Mark Krikorian said. "While we're thrilled to have the quality of Tori and Toni and Kelsey and many of these other top-quality kids, we think that it is the world game. And if there is a young woman out there who is keen for an education here in the U.S. and does have the quality of soccer we're looking for and is willing to come and be a good teammate and good contributor to the community, then the door may be open for them."
In fact, as a familiar slogan goes, they'll leave the light on for you.
Since Krikorian took over at Florida State in 2005, he hasn't let an ocean or two stand in the way of expanding the program's reach. His first team included two players from Germany and one each from Australia, Finland, Japan and the Netherlands. The Seminoles jumped from 12 wins and 29 goals the season before his arrival to 20 wins and 65 goals and advanced to the College Cup for the first of three consecutive appearances, fueled in no small part by the success of players like Japan's Mami Yamaguchi, who in 2007 became the second non-North American to win the Hermann Trophy as college soccer's best player (Notre Dame's Finnish star Anne Makinen won in 2000).
A member of the senior national team in Belgium, Cayman started university at home and weighed a delayed track for her studies, the best way to balance the demands of club soccer with school in a system not designed for them to easily coexist. When she heard from a teammate about Florida State, she was intrigued. Coming to the United States eventually meant sitting out an entire year to settle eligibility issues, but Krikorian's reputation sold her.
"It's important that it's not just a kick-and-rush game, that's it's technical, you have to think more," Cayman said. "I also wanted to know if it was a professional environment and there would be room for me to improve my skills. I think that all came true."
Juarena followed a similarly serendipitous path to Florida State, alerted to the program in part by one of her sister's friends who was studying at the University of Florida and mentioned Florida State's reputation for women's soccer. Krikorian said he ultimately passes on more than 50 percent of the international players to whom he's tipped off, mostly because they fall short of the talent necessary in the ACC. But with plenty of trusted ties in France, beginning with Marinette Pichon, who starred for him with the Philadelphia Charge in the WUSA, he heard what he needed to hear about Juarena.
The culture shock from Paris to Tallahassee was extreme, but Juarena nonetheless made both the ACC all-academic team and the all-conference second team as a sophomore in 2010. Florida's panhandle still isn't the Left Bank, but she sounds rather happy talking about the pleasures of motoring her scooter through the streets of Tallahassee.
"I like differences in general," Juarena said of her motivation to come. "I like to get to know how people live in a different way and stuff like that. It's funny to see how people live differently and live in different kind of areas."
The current international Seminoles don't have the dazzling numbers Yamaguchi or strikers like Finland's Sanna Talonen posted in their time in Tallahassee, but Cayman, Juarena and Brynjarsdottir are nonetheless key figures as the Seminoles hope to eliminate tournament favorite Stanford. The Cardinal have two of the best attacking outside backs in the game, but Juarena and teammate Tiana Brockway aren't far behind. Just a freshman, Brynjarsdottir has five goals in 20 games out of the midfield. Cayman has seven goals and six assists to rank second in points behind McCarty and has the athleticism to disrupt Stanford's possession.
And yes, there's a bit of irony in Cayman helping disrupt a Stanford system that is positively European in its precision and possession. As the globe shrinks, stereotypes fade.
"There are European players, like Janice Cayman, who are as athletic as every American kid we had," Krikorian said. "I think this stereotype we have, where oftentimes the European player may have a little more sophistication to their game but maybe not as much athleticism, I can see why that stereotype exists, but I'm not sure I fully buy into it."
Of course, while soccer is an increasingly global language, French, Japanese, Icelandic and other tongues remain less so. And while Florida State's international contingent may well help the Seminoles win their first championship on the field, they've already made their mark on the program.
"They just bring so much personality to our team," Huster said. "It's not even so much the soccer, but they bring outside culture that a lot of other teams don't get to experience. I know that it's great to have Janice Cayman from Belgium and Ines Juarena from France and all the other ones. To have those connections throughout the world, it's something that I look to the future and that's something I could eventually take advantage of almost. It's great to have them here. And they bring so much to the team on the field, but so much more off the field."
Graham Hays covers women's college soccer and softball for ESPN.com. Email him at Graham.Hays@espn.com. Follow him on Twitter: @grahamhays.