The Daily Nole

Ranking FSU Athletic Programs Heading Into 2018-19

Sara Davis/ACC Digital Network

The lull of summer has arrived for Florida State fans, with all of the athletic seasons concluded for the 2017-18 school year. Nothing ever seemed to go according to plan, with all types of surprise results and unexpected finishes occurring.

Almost no one could have predicted the wild runs that softball and men’s basketball went on, just as they couldn’t predict the crashes of football and volleyball. It was an interesting year to cover sports (to say the least).

Now that it’s all in the rear view mirror, we’re undergoing one of our offseason ideas. We took a look at all 20 varsity sports at Florida State and ranked them for their upcoming 2018-19 seasons.

That means we are ranking the teams based on how we think they will do within their own sport over the next athletic year. Our rankings are based on a combination of the past season results, roster turnover, future potential, and program consistency.

Obviously with 20 teams to discuss, we did not get the chance to obsessively pour over every statistic and every game played. But we think that the list below provides an accurate picture of where each team stands in their respective sport.

Due to the nature of individualization and general streamlining purposes, the men and women teams for golf, tennis, cross country, track and field, and swimming and diving were combined. It is obviously difficult to accurately rank every sport that FSU participates in when the very nature of competition is different — team sports are comparatively much easier to line up. But leaving them out would be more egregious than ranking them incorrectly.

1. Softball

This selection seems pretty self-explanatory. If you win the national championship, you automatically get to be the top program on campus for at least a year. Head coach Lonni Alameda has set up her teams to be consistent Women’s College World Series contenders with strong recruiting and now a proven recipe for ultimate success.

The team does lose its superstar third baseman Jessie Warren and top pitcher Kylee Hanson, as well as seniors Morgan Klaevemann and Korina Rosario. But it returns the rest of the players integral to the championship, like pitcher Meghan King and ACC Freshman of the Year Sydney Sherrill.

2. Beach Volleyball

The runner-ups for the 2018 beach volleyball national championship are another obvious choice. While the field of opponents is comparatively less challenging, FSU remains one of the top contenders in the sport. Losing All-Americans Vanessa Freire and Tory Paranagua will be hard to overcome, but last year’s team was freshman-heavy. Those freshmen now have a year under their belt and are a part of a consistent program with proven results.

3. Men’s Basketball

It was hard to figure out where men’s basketball should be placed. On one hand, the team blew past expectations with an impressive Elite Eight run and returns a large majority of the production on both offense and defense. On the other hand, starting guard C.J. Walker transferred out and expected starting center Ike Obiagu left the program under weird circumstances.

Forward Phil Cofer returns after leading FSU in scoring last season. (Kirby Lee and Dan Avila/FSU athletics)

Ultimately, the prospects of an improved young core in Trent Forrest, M.J. Walker, and Mfiondu Kabengele is too enticing to rank them any lower than third. The Seminoles might not be the trendy national championship pick, but FSU basketball has a legitimate chance of winning the ACC and returning to the Elite Eight.

4. Soccer

Florida State soccer certainly has enough talent to win another national championship. 2017 concluded with a loss in the third round of the NCAA Tournament to the eventual national champions Stanford, which wasn’t so much disappointing as it was deflating. FSU grabbed the No. 4 seed but the Seminoles knew they could do better.

2018 will give them that chance, as the only major contributor they’re losing is goalkeeper Cassie Miller. International superstar Deyna Castellanos comes back as a junior after leading the ACC with 19 goals scored, in addition to returning veterans like Megan Connolly, Dallas Dorosy, and Kaycie Tillman. The Seminoles figure to be right back in the thick of a championship hunt in 2018.

5. Track and Field

Florida State’s indoor track and field had a rebound year, with both men and women’s teams winning the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championship. The conference title was the first for both the Florida State men and women since 2014. The men also won the ACC’s outdoor track and field championship — their first since 2015.

Both teams finished in the top 15 at the NCAA Championships and 14 different Seminoles earned All-American honors. A national championship was not in the cards this year, but FSU’s track and field program has clearly returned to at least being nationally competitive.

6. Women’s Basketball

FSU falling in the round of 32 was one of the more shocking season endings last year. The lack of depth ultimately did the Seminoles in, despite having one of the more talented starting fives in the nation. The bad news is that their entire starting lineup graduated, so 2018-19 is going to be a rebuilding year for the team.

FSU head coach Sue Semrau will have to replace five seniors. (Ross Obley/FSU athletics)

Head coach Sue Semrau isn’t unprepared however — she has recruited excellently on the trail and the rest of the team were sophomores or younger last season. Growing pains will be abundant as Semrau figures out the best possible lineup and rotation. But stay with the team and it will pay off in 2019-20.

7. Baseball

Recent news of head coach Mike Martin Sr. returning for 2019 meant that baseball could not fall too far in the rankings. Even with the various criticisms of Martin, he still shows the ability to constantly turn in 40-win seasons and some postseason success.

Last season’s ending was certainly discouraging, but there’s no reason to expect a sudden collapse for 2018-19. The Seminoles will have to deal with key departures in Tyler Holton, Jackson Lueck, and Cal Raleigh, though they brought in a pretty good 2018 class which figures to alleviate some of that difficulty.

8. Tennis

Both men’s and women’s tennis teams reached new heights this past season. The men went 28-5 overall and beat multiple ranked teams along the way, helping them receive a national seed in the NCAA Tournament and a new school-record for wins. It ended in very disappointing fashion with an upset loss in the second round to Alabama.

Meanwhile, the women went just 20-13 on the season, but made the deepest run in program history by getting to the Elite Eight. The women return all but one player, while the men will need to replace five. Each should be able to build on last season’s success.

9. Football

In any other year, the football team would be in the top three if not No. 1 overall. But thanks to the 7-6 season, a coaching change, and general uncertainty, the gridiron edition of the Seminoles have fallen quite a few spots in the rankings.

Cam Akers rushed for an FSU freshman record 1,024 yards in 2017. (Mitch White/FSU athletics)

There’s still reason for optimism, as head coach Willie Taggart has a proven offensive track record and he takes over one of the most talented teams in the nation. It also helps to return stars like running back Cam Akers and defensive end Brian Burns. Until we see that improvement however, football is too unknown to put any higher.

10. Volleyball

Much of the focus on fall sports was directed towards FSU football and its disappointment on the gridiron. Perhaps that was a good thing, because volleyball suffered a roughly comparable collapse in its own sport. After going to the Sweet 16 in 2016, the Seminoles were expected to compete for the ACC crown and make another tournament run in 2017.

Instead, they finished sixth in their own conference and were defeated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. There were some internal rumblings about disappointment with head coach Chris Poole and how he handled the team, but he is still bringing in a talented recruiting class and remains one of the best coaches in the sport. 2018 will be very telling for the future of the program and whether or not this past season was a fluke.

11. Golf

If alum success was a factor in these rankings, golf would be top five. As it stands, FSU golf had an up-and-down year. The women’s team was clearly the most successful of the two, finishing in second place in the ACC and 12th place at the NCAA Championships. Men’s was a slight letdown after not making it out of the NCAA Regionals for the first time in seven years.

Both return some of their top players with ACC Freshman of the Year John Pak and All-ACC sophomore Amanda Doherty. The women’s team will lose the Metraux sisters and Kayla Jones, so the fortunes of both teams might switch in the upcoming year.

12. Swimming and Diving

It was a down year for the men and women swimming and diving teams. Usually the men hover anywhere from 10th to 20th place at the NCAA Championships, while the women typically finish a bit lower. This year both squads struggled, as the men finished in 21st place and the women concluded at 42nd. The latter was one of the lower marks in FSU swimming and diving history.

13. Cross Country

Not much happened with men’s and women’s cross country this season. Both teams saw their year end in the NCAA South Regional and only one player from either team (Michael Hall) advanced to the individual championships. He finished 132nd out of 250. There’s still optimism to be had, since freshman Jodie Judd on the women’s side was the top finisher on either team for the Seminoles in the regional.

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