The Pensky File
Florida State Vice President and Director of Athletics Michael Alford named Tennessee head coach Brian Pensky as FSU women’s soccer head coach on April 26, 2022. Pensky, who led the Volunteers to the 2021 SEC Championship, and has won National, ACC and SEC Coach of the Year honors, will take over the Seminoles after coaching Tennessee for the last 10 years.
“Florida State’s soccer program is regarded as one of if not the best in the country and rightfully so,” said Pensky. “The opportunity to be a part of this great program with the remarkable tradition is an honor. What Mark (Krikorian) did here over the last 17 years is unparalleled in our game. Simply put, he has been the best in the business.”
“But it is more than just the soccer program that attracted me. The status of the university as a top tier public institution academically is just as impressive as the athletic history. And, I have coached in the ACC and I know the strength of the league is second to none in the country.
“I take over the program with endless humility and understanding of the task at hand.”
Tennessee’s 2021 SEC Championship highlighted a season in which the Vols finished with a 20-3-0 record and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16. Pensky was named the SEC Coach of the Year following the season and the entire UT coaching staff was recognized as the Southeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
“After getting a great deal of input from our soccer student-athletes, we set out to attract the very best coach in the country to lead what has become the premier program in the country. I am very pleased to announce that in Brian Pensky we have found the person whose talent and drive match our consistently high expectations for FSU soccer.
“Coach Pensky is a proven winner both in the ACC which we consider the nation’s best conference and the SEC. He has built programs and sustained consistent, high-level success proving his abilities time and time again.
“I am excited about the future of our program under Coach Pensky and we welcome him and his family to Florida State.”
After leading Tennessee to its second consecutive SEC Eastern Division championship in 2021, Pensky was selected as the SEC Coach of the Year. He then deftly guided Tennessee to its first SEC Tournament championship since 2008 and a trip to the NCAA Round of 16. The 2021 squad went undefeated in Regal Stadium, opening the season with seven straight shutouts to set a new single-season shutout record of 633:53 en route to a record of 20-3-0 for the program’s first 20-win season. Redshirt sophomore Jaida Thomas and senior Wrenne French both received All-America honors, and newcomer Taylor Huff was named SEC Freshman of the Year. Senior Mackenzie George earned First Team All-SEC honors while redshirt-sophomore Thomas, Huff, and French were named Second Team All-SEC. Tennessee landed three on the SEC All-Freshman Team with Huff, Jordan Fusco, and Claire Rain each making the list. Following the season, UT’s coaches were named Southeast Region Staff of the Year by United Soccer Coaches.
During the fall of 2020, Pensky guided Tennessee to an SEC East Title, going 4-1-1 in divisional play and 4-3-1 overall in conference play. In the spring, the Big Orange recorded four more wins, three of which were shutouts, to finish the season with an 8-6-1 record and mark the sixth-straight winning season. Newcomer Jaida Thomas was named to the 2020 SEC All-Freshman Team and junior Mackenzie George earned Second Team All-SEC honors.
In 2019, Pensky led UT to a 9-6-3 record overall. The Vols posted an 8-2 record at Regal Soccer Stadium that included shutout wins over SEC East rivals Florida, Georgia and Kentucky. Following the 2019 season, seniors Maya Neal and Katie Cousins became the fourth and fifth players in program history to earn four All-SEC honors with first and second-team accolades, respectively. MA Vignola was named also a first-team all-conference selection after leading the team with nine goals and five assists. Goalkeeper Lindsey Romig was named to the SEC All-Freshman team, becoming the fifth Tennessee player to accomplish that feat in the past six years.
Pensky’s Vols ascended to new heights in 2018, reaching the NCAA Quarterfinals for the first time in program history. Tennessee finished 16-3-3 overall, good for the program’s highest winning percentage (.795) and fewest losses (3) in a single season. UT earned consensus top-10 status following the historic campaign, rounding out the year with a No. 6 ranking from TopDrawerSoccer.com, No. 7 from the United Soccer Coaches and No. 8 in the NCAA RPI.
Tennessee’s stout defensive unit limited opponents to a program-best 15 goals on the season, while the Vols’ 12 shutouts tied a Tennessee record that has stood since 2003. UT netted 44 goals on the offensive end, marking the first time Tennessee scored 40-plus goals in back-to-back seasons since 2002-03.
Several Vols claimed individual postseason accolades, highlighted by Bunny Shaw (second team) and Katie Cousins (third team) earning All-America distinction from the United Soccer Coaches. Shaw, Cousins and Maya Neal were selected First Team All-Southeast Region, while MA Vignola took home a Second Team all-region nod.
Shaw headlined SEC postseason awards, becoming the second Tennessee player ever to be named SEC Offensive Player of the Year (Kylee Rossi, 2006-07). The forward from Spanish Town, Jamaica led the league with 0.87 goals per game, 2.13 points per game and seven game-winners. Shaw, Cousins and Neal each repeated as First Team All-SEC honorees, while Vignola and Erin Gilroy were voted Second Team All-SEC.
Pensky coached UT to a 15-4-2 record in 2017, returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012. The team scored 47 goals – the third-most in program history – and posted 10 shutouts. Following the campaign, Pensky was awarded a contract extension through the 2021 season.
Five players were named United Coaches All-Region and/or All-SEC following the 2017 season. Katie Cousins became the program’s sixth All-American and second under Pensky’s tenure with a third-team selection from the United Soccer Coaches. Michele Christy was tabbed CoSIDA Academic All-America with a 4.0 GPA in chemical engineering.
In 2016, Pensky helped the Vols return to the SEC Tournament after narrowly missing out in 2015. The Big Orange finished 5-5-1 in SEC play, earning the No. 7 seed in the conference tournament. Tennessee defeated Ole Miss, 2-0, in the first round of the SEC Tourney before being eliminated by No. 2 seed Auburn, 3-1, in the quarterfinals.
The Vols were strong once again defensively, posting eight shutouts and a 1.45 goals-against average for the season. Three players (Hannah Wilkinson, Rylie O’Keefe & Maya Neal) earned NSCAA All-South Region and All-SEC accolades. Wilkinson posted career highs with 11 goals, 10 assists and 32 points to move into second and third, respectively, on UT’s career goals and points charts.
Pensky led the Vols to their fifth winning season in the past six years and 15th overall in 2015. Tennessee went 7-5-6 despite losing several key players to injury early in the season, including the team’s active leader in goals and points, Hannah Wilkinson. UT went undefeated in non-conference play (4-0-3) and finished in a three-way tie for ninth in SEC play (3-5-3).
Redshirt-senior goalkeeper Julie Eckel capped off a great career by earning All-SEC first-team honors. She led the SEC with eight shutouts and became the Vols’ career leader in saves (335) and save percentage (.817). The Cordova, Tenn., native also finished her career as the program’s all-time leader among goalkeepers in games played (81), games started (79) and minutes played (7,411:14).
In 2014, Pensky led Tennessee on an impressive late-season surge with four-straight wins in a 10-day span (Oct. 26 – Nov. 5), advancing the Big Orange to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the eighth time in program history. Tennessee defeated No. 21 Missouri, 3-0, at home on Oct. 26 before Cheyenne Spade’s 108th-minute goal in the regular-season finale at Ole Miss punched UT’s ticket to the SEC Tournament. Tennessee rallied back from a 2-0 deficit in the first round of the SEC Tournament to defeat Alabama, 3-2. In the SEC Tournament quarterfinals, Tennessee played No. 8 Florida to a 1-1 tie and advanced on penalty kicks, 5-4. Hannah Wilkinson and Allie Sirna earned NSCAA All-Region and All-SEC Tournament honors and Carlyn Baldwin was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Pensky led UT to its third-consecutive and 14th-overall winning season in 2013 with a record of 8-7-4. The team notched three wins over ranked opponents, including triumphs over eventual conference champions Texas A&M (SEC champion) and UCF (Conference USA champion). Strong leadership from the team’s upperclassmen helped continue UT’s tradition of excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Senior forward Caroline Brown and junior back Allie Sirna garnered All-SEC honors and NSCAA Scholar All-Region accolades. Brown also earned Capital One Academic All-America second-team honors, making her the only two-time Academic All-American in UT history.
In Pensky’s first year at Tennessee, the squad went 14-5-3 and made its 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. UT also outperformed preseason league expectations, finishing third in the SEC after the team was picked 11th in the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll in August. The team’s 0.69 goals-against average set a new program record and the Lady Vols recorded 11 shutouts. UT also produced the longest shutout streak in school history with 533:22 of scoreless defense from Aug. 19 through Sept. 9. Tennessee finished at No. 18 in the final NCAA Women’s Soccer RPI and the Lady Vols ranked 25th in the final Soccer America poll of 2012.
Sophomore forward and Pensky recruit Hannah Wilkinson was named a third-team NSCAA All-American and a first-team All-SEC selection in 2012. She became the fifth Lady Vol to be named an All-American (first, second or third team) and the fourth Lady Vol to garner NSCAA All-America honors.
Senior back Ali Hall was also an All-SEC and NSCAA All-South Region selection after leading one of the best defensive units in Tennessee soccer history.
Pensky was named head soccer coach at the University of Tennessee on Jan. 26, 2012 by vice-chancellor and director of athletics Dave Hart. Pensky took the helm at Tennessee after seven years as the head coach of the women’s soccer program at the University of Maryland.
In 2010, Maryland earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and Pensky was named both National Coach of the Year by Soccer America and ACC Coach of the Year. He served as the head coach of the Maryland women’s soccer team from 2005-11 and posted a 67-52-20 overall record. While at the helm in College Park, Pensky led the Terrapins to their most successful three-year run in program history, with a 44-14-9 record and a .724 win percentage over the last three seasons.
Pensky guided Maryland to NCAA Tournament appearances in each of the last three consecutive seasons, including Sweet 16 appearances in both 2009 and 2011.
Along with 2011 national champion Stanford and Florida State, Maryland was one of only three programs that finished ranked in the Top 11 from 2009-11 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll, finishing 10th in 2010 and 11th in both 2009 and 2011. In 2010, Pensky guided Maryland to its best season in program history with an 18-2-3 (.848) overall ledger and a school-record 7-2-1 mark in the ACC. Additionally, co-captain Caitlin McDowell earned the 2010 ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.
Playing in a highly competitive conference, Pensky guided the Terps to their second-ever ACC Championship match in 2011. The Terrapins advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 with victories over Auburn and La Salle in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Oklahoma State. Additionally, during Stanford’s 25-0-1 national championship season in 2011, the lone blemish was a 0-0 tie against Maryland on Aug. 26, 2011.
From 2009-11, Maryland posted a 15-10-5 record in the ACC, the first time the Terps recorded three consecutive seasons of .500 or better in conference play in program history.
Under Pensky’s reign, Maryland defeated five top-10 programs including the Terps’ first-ever victories over the most-storied program in college soccer history, North Carolina. The Terps defeated the 20-time NCAA Champions in 2010 and 2011.
The Terrapins had two players drafted by the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league: goalkeeper Mary Casey in 2010 by Los Angeles, and All-American forward Jasmyne Spencer in 2011 by Philadelphia. Spencer was twice a member of the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, awarded annually to the national player of the year. She also became the fifth Maryland player to earn All-ACC accolades three times.
Before guiding the women’s team, Pensky served as an assistant coach with the Maryland men’s program, helping those Terrapins to three consecutive College Cup berths (2002-04). Working with head coach Sasho Cirovski, Pensky helped the Terps to a 57-14-3 record (.791 win percentage). The men captured the ACC Tournament title in 2002 and regular-season crown in 2003. In 2004, CollegeSoccerNews.com named Pensky one of the top assistant coaches in the nation.
Prior to working under Cirovski for three seasons, where he was involved in all facets of the program, Pensky was an assistant at Loyola College in Maryland, where he helped the Greyhound women’s team win the 2001 MAAC Conference Tournament and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament in his one season with the program. He came to Loyola after spending three years as an assistant coach with the George Washington University women’s soccer program.
Pensky holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Emory University in Atlanta (class of 1991), as well as an “A” license from the United States Soccer Federation, an NSCAA Premier and NSCAA goalkeeping diploma.
Pensky and his wife, Abby, have three children – boy-girl twins Will and Alex and their youngest son, Ben.