With just two games to go before the ACC Tournament, LeiLanni Nesbeth, and her Florida State University Women’s Soccer teammates will look to close out the 2020 campaign with an undefeated regular-season record. Florida State currently sit at No. 2 in the United Soccer Coaches poll behind North Carolina and will potentially face a test from them in the tournament.
Though it’s been a shortened season, Florida State has certainly adjusted well and have been buoyed by both a dominant offensive attack and shutdown defense. But for Nesbeth, who currently leads the squad with four goals scored, it’s almost as if she practiced specifically for this short burst of a season.
Nesbeth, returned home to quarantine following the COVID-19 outbreak to find that her practice space was severely limited. While she had grown familiar with the ample practice facilities at FSU, the sophomore returned home following meniscus surgery and quickly found out that practicing and getting room to run would be quite the challenge.
“I was just finding ways to get fitness in running within a 10-yard space, running back and forth trying to get my fitness,” Nesbeth said. “I was doing a lot of just passing to the wall, you know, sort of me and my ball for the oldest quarantine.”
Nesbeth wasn’t all by herself in practice, however, as she was able to round up a few defenders to work with her — even if they were a little smaller than the competition she’d run into at the college level.
“It was definitely interesting, you know, you find trying to find different ways of trying to get my little brother and my little sister to play soccer, so they can be my defenders,” Nesbeth said.
She has certainly settled into her role this season, starting all six of FSU’s games at either the forward or midfielder position. However, playing collegiate soccer in the United States was far from Nesbeth’s life-long plan.
Growing up in Bermuda, Nesbeth played both soccer and basketball, but originally gravitated toward the cricket oval, where she eventually signed with Brighton’s youth development academy in Great Britain. After hopping across the pond to attend high school and develop as a cricketer, Nesbeth found herself drawn once again to soccer.
Shortly after she realized that she could unite both her college studies and sports careers in the United States, she signed with the Seminoles.
“It was kind of late when I decided I wanted to come over to the U.S… Florida State had just won the 2018 national championship, so I was ecstatic that I was even able to be offered,” Nesbeth said, adding that the coaching staff and overall level of experience made FSU seem like a “perfect fit.”
If Florida State was a perfect fit for Nesbeth, it’s hard to see how she wouldn’t be the same for head coach Mark Krikorian and his offense. Despite not typically playing a full ninety minutes, Nesbeth paces the Seminoles with four goals scored. Only Jenna Nighswonger has more points (nine) than Nesbeth’s eight, and Nighswonger has logged 133 more minutes on the pitch.
Now that she’s back in Tallahassee after spending the bulk of her quarantine period in Bermuda, Nesbeth said she’s glad to be back with her teammates and enjoying their company. That’s been the story of the season for the Seminoles, whose tremendous depth has benefited them on both sides of the ball and allowed them to run up an undefeated record and a couple of inflated stat-lines.
“We’re trying to make the most of what we have in preparation for the ACC Tournament, and next spring when we’ll hopefully have the national championship as well… I think, as a team, we’ve adapted very well,” Nesbeth said.
Whether it’s rounding up siblings as defenders or adjusting to a new, COVID-shortened season, Nesbeth and the Seminoles have certainly adapted — and then some.