Florida State has a squad ready made for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament this season, and Toni Pressley is a key component. The versatile defender was one of the United States’ standout players at the 2010 U-20 FIFA World Cup. Pressley is now in her senior season with the highly rated Seminoles and looks to round out her college career with a national title.
The Florida native spoke about this year’s class, Mark Krikorian’s unique virtues, and playing at the international level.
What was preseason like?
Preseason was very fun with the collection of talent that we gained. It made practice very competitive; I think the most competitive since I have been here.
People have tipped Florida State to win the national title this year. What is it about this year’s squad that makes it special?
I think the fact that everyone is on the same page about being committed and sacrificing the little things in order to reach our ultimate goal is what is making this 2011 team so special. I also think that having a senior class that has never been to a College Cup is also contributing in a major way because we won’t have another chance and we are willing to do what ever it takes to make sure we are successful.
Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian has coached at every level including the pros. What makes his style of coaching unique?
I think what separates Mark from many coaches is his overall idea about the game and his commitment to making individuals better as well as the team. He is very interested in playing a style of soccer that is smart but also creative, so while keeping the ball, connecting multiple passes, collective defending and attacking are very important to him, being dangerous in and around the penalty box and all over the field are also very important. Mark and the coaching staff also do a lot of teaching through video. They will sit down with us and go over clips taken of us in a previous game and ask us what a better passing option is or what our movements should be and I think that is extremely helpful.
You’ve gotten to play with so many international players in your college career. What do they bring to the team and what have you learned from them?
Having played with so many internationals brings a whole new level to our team. They sometimes have a better or even whole new idea of the game that everyone can learn from. From their tactics to their overall skill, I think having these players helps us every day in practice become much better.
You were a forward before you moved to defense. What was that transition like?
The transition from forward to defense I think was a relatively smooth one. Of course, I needed to learn the proper movements, tactics, and build communication skills as a defender, but I think it was somewhat easy at times and I was very open to it. I actually like it better than playing forward. I like being able to read the game and having the chance to shut down others teams attack, but then also start the attack. I think you get to do a lot more as a defender even though you may not get the recognition that forwards and midfielders do.
What do you enjoy most about playing at central defense?
I like being able to read the game and preventing people from scoring but also being able to generate the attack on the offensive side of things.
The ACC is arguably the best soccer conference in the country. Does this add a distinct level of pressure?
The ACC certainly has a tradition of being very good and very competitive. I think it just makes conference play that much more exciting knowing that every team is very good. It also provides extra preparation for when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
You were a starting center-back for the U.S. at the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. When you look back at that experience, what will you most remember?
I remember all of the connections I made with people. Even though the playing experience was absolutely amazing, I will never forget my team and the journey it took to get us all there together. I honestly would do it all over again even if we lost in the quarterfinals because the bonds and experiences that I made with the players and coaches were so fulfilling. I learned so much from it and it think it made me a better person and a better player for going through this experience.
Thanks to Toni and Jason.