All of the membership practices, the middle-school journey staff video games, the rides up and down Interstate-4 — even Baggett’s weekend as a bridesmaid within the 20-year-old Fotopoulos’ marriage ceremony a couple of months earlier — meant completely nothing because the No. 9 Gators and Blue Devils did battle that Sunday afternoon.
That turned painfully clear (for another than the opposite) when Fotopoulos, in a scoreless sport, executed an open-field deal with (the authorized form) on Baggett that despatched her Blue Satan buddy spilling to the turf and writhing in ache with an ankle harm. The sport was stopped, Baggett was helped off the sector and finally returned to look at the remaining minutes from the sidelines on crutches.
Duke prevailed 1-0.
“I bear in mind being so mad after the sport,” Fotopoulos recalled. “I used to be nonetheless indignant that we would misplaced, however once I lastly noticed Sam, noticed her on crutches, I advised her, ‘I am so sorry.’ She was like, ‘I do not care. We gained.’ “
Fotopoulos and Baggett have relived and retold that anecdote all through the final quarter century-plus, be it throughout their time collectively on the U.S. Nationwide Crew, as their households grew and careers took their turns, and finally as teaching rivals the final six years within the Sunshine State Convention. On Monday, it turned as topical as ever when Fotopoulos, one of many best gamers in Florida historical past and creator of this system’s all-time signature second, was in attendance on the press convention inside UF’s glowing new soccer advanced asserting her longtime pal — now Samantha Bohon, by means of Division II Embry-Riddle Aeronautical College— because the third coach in Gators historical past.
“I am ecstatic about it,” Fotopoulos mentioned.
Bohon, 45, replaces Tony Amato, who final month parted methods with this system after only one season.
UF athletic director Scott Stricklin did not want a reference from Fotopoulos to hone in on Bohon. Her title really got here up final 12 months when the Gators went on the lookout for a substitute for icon Becky Burleigh, the founding father of the UF program who retired after 26 seasons following the 2021 marketing campaign.
In April of ’21, the timing wasn’t proper for Bohon. In Might of ’22, when the decision got here out of nowhere, the timing was higher.
“We have been making our plans for the summer time, then issues took a flip,” Bohon mentioned.
A major one.
“Florida soccer. I’ve performed towards it, coached towards it and lived within the state for greater than 30 years of my life, so I’m aware of each the custom and potential of this program, and that is what excites me essentially the most,” Bohon mentioned. “I get to work for great folks at a college that gives an unimaginable student-athlete expertise, and we want to make the soccer program a part of that have.”
Bohon went 157-72-14 in 15 seasons at Embry-Riddle, alongside the way in which shepherding the Eagles program from the NAIA to D-II degree in 2015. She went to eight straight NAIA postseason tournaments, and in simply the third season captured the Sunshine State match and title and reached the spherical of 16 in NCAA play.
Her groups have a stellar monitor report within the classroom, however there’s one other statistic — an unofficial one — that’s fairly gorgeous on this period of collegiate sports activities: No participant in Bohon’s 15 seasons as a head coach has ever left this system to switch to a different.
That speaks to tradition and connectivity.
“She comes throughout in a manner that makes it obvious she’s actually good with the connection piece,” Stricklin mentioned. “We did background with former gamers and colleagues, and even received suggestions from different athletes at Embry-Riddle with how she was perceived in that division. It was all very constructive. She is leaving a spot the place she was very properly revered.”
And buying and selling it in for a spot that may now be coping with a second consecutive offseason of transition. When UF introduced its resolution to maneuver on from Amato final month, Stricklin cited a “disconnect” between the coach and the gamers.
So her first job will establishing a connection.
“I am simply going to attempt to allow them to get to know me authentically and earnestly, in order that then we will construct some belief into my intentions and strategies,” Bohon mentioned. “I perceive the scenario. It is unlucky. I advised [the search committee] throughout my Zoom interview, ‘I am sorry, in some methods, that I am right here,’ as a result of clearly you would not need that for both social gathering.”
Added Stricklin: “You’ll be able to inform she’s a aggressive one that channels that in a constructive manner. She’s sharp and has a good way, a terrific demeanor, about her. She has a present of creating folks immediately comfy. With the gamers, I feel she’ll have the preliminary heat you want as a way to begin a relationship that may be based mostly on belief.”
Born in Fort Lauderdale, she was 6 when the household moved to Daytona Seaside, the place her father was a fifth-generation descendent to Billie Byington Baggett, who was mayor of town within the late-Eighties and thought of an historic forefather and founder to that group.
Her mom, Dana, was a four-time tennis state champion at Seabreeze Excessive, whereas father, Laurence, performed a number of sports activities there as properly. Naturally, younger Samantha adopted go well with by excelling on the tennis courts, golf programs and, after all, soccer fields of Volusia County. Bohon’s early monitor seemed to be tennis, the place she ascended to a top-20 rating within the state. She was ok to be skilled on the prestigious Bollettieri Tennis Academy (now often known as IMG), the place she partnered on the doubles courtroom with Jennifer Capriati.
In time, although, the dedication to tennis proved an excessive amount of, and soccer turned her sport of alternative. Bohon was so significantly better than different ladies in her age group that she was positioned on a boys membership staff earlier than the Orlando space shaped a program for elite lady gamers in Central Florida. Not solely was she an space famous person, however the 1994 Orlando Sentinel Soccer Participant of the 12 months was invited to coach with the U.S. Beneath-20 staff in California the summer time bridging her senior 12 months at Seabreeze and freshman season at Duke.
“She has intelligence and ability and dedication,” then-Seabreeze coach Linda Dodson mentioned on the time. “If there’s one thing she will’t do, she’s devoted sufficient to exit and discover ways to do it.”
However there wasn’t a lot Bohon could not do when it got here to soccer.
At Duke, she was a three-time All-Atlantic Coast Convention choice — taking part in each ahead and fullback — and as a senior captain tallied 28 factors (13 objectives, two assists) for the fifth-best scoring output in Blue Devils historical past. She graduated with levels in English and Sociology in ’98 and for the following two years labored as a grad assistant at Duke. Throughout that point, Bohon was plucked to be a part of the U.S. staff — sure that staff — and labored alongside the likes of Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Carla Overbeck, Briana Scurry and Fotopoulos throughout the American’s historic run to the ’99 World Cup championship.
“The expertise with the nationwide staff was great, however I noticed throughout my time there I did not simply wish to be a soccer participant,” Bohon mentioned.
She went to grad college at North Carolina and accomplished work towards a masters in sports activities administration in 2001, which helped result in a full-time soccer assistant publish at Tennessee. In simply her second 12 months — and with recruiting coordinator duties on Bohon’s plate — the Volunteers gained their first Southeastern Convention title, a milestone that led to some head-coach feelers (and presents) from high-major applications.
Soccer, although, was not Bohon’s No. 1 precedence on the time. Marriage and household have been.
She left UT after 4 years to return to Daytona for a household enterprise, however that was when the household and soccer stars aligned. The Embry-Riddle job opened and the scenario (and setting) was too good. That was in 2007. Beneath Bohon, the Eagles turned an annual contender within the NAIA nationwide match.
“She had high-major pedigree as a participant at Duke and assistant at Tennessee, however Samantha actually perfected her teaching throughout her time at Embry-Riddle,” Stricklin mentioned.
In 2015, ERAU joined the D-11 Sunshine State Convention, which meant dealing with league foe Eckerd — and Fotopoulos, that program’s coach — yearly. Bohon went 5-1 in these conferences (with no ankle accidents).
Now married with three kids, the chance simply two hours from her Daytona roots was too good to move up.
“Actually, I used to be in a extremely good place in my profession, had simply completed my twenty first season [as a coach], and was simply actually appreciative of the experiences I’ve had. There weren’t many openings that may have taken me from my present scenario,” Bohon mentioned. “However when Florida calls, you decide up the telephone.”
Now, donning Gator gear on recruiting journeys, Bohon will not need to lock in position gamers. She might be eyeing elite, top-shelf prospects.
Like she as soon as was.
Fotopoulos, in the meantime, is thrilled for her pal, but in addition for this system she not solely loves, however helped information to the 1998 NCAA title by scoring the lone aim in a surprising 1-0 upset of No. 1 North Carolina, winner of 10 of the earlier 11 nationwide championships, in what was simply the fourth season of the Gators’ existence.
“She is among the greatest people I do know. She has religion, household, help round her and I do know is humble sufficient to say she leans on that for her help and power,” Fotopoulos mentioned. “Her program goes to be organized, enjoyable, the whole lot that you really want, with involvement within the Gator group and Gator Nation and Gator alumni. On the sector, they are going to be organized and match. She’s been in a position to recruit all around the world. She pays shut consideration to element throughout the pulse of the staff and can use and eat all of the assets given to her to have one of the best expertise for the gamers and the student-athlete.”
The assets, beginning with the lately accomplished $7.4 million, 13,800 sq. foot soccer advanced, might be plentiful. The roster is a distinct story.
Bohon inherits a staff that went 4-12-4 total in 2021 (the worst in program historical past), together with a 3-6-1 mark in SEC play, giving UF its first back-to-back shedding seasons in program’s 27-year lore. So there’s work to do.
On the sector, the Bohon-led Gators will play a possession-based model of soccer, but in addition might be versatile relative to her gamers’ ability units. These conversations are for an additional day, although.
The trust-building begins now.
“Within the short-term there are two traits that I worth, and all of it begins with a student-person-player mannequin,” Bohon mentioned. “The expectation is to develop all three of these, and to be a blue-collar, hard-working staff that’s grateful and might be related.”
The Gators consider they’ve discovered the fitting individual — this time, at that proper time — to proper this system’s tradition.
And he or she was proper down the turnpike all alongside.