By Jeff Odom
Land O’ Lakes boys soccer coach Mark Pearson stood proudly behind University of North Florida-bound midfielder Sean Young and held nothing back during the Gators’ National Signing Day ceremony Feb. 6.
“In my mind,” Pearson told the crowd, “Sean is and will be the most complete player to ever come through our program.”
Young, along with baseball player Zachary Whitaker (Shorter University in Georgia) and girls soccer player Holly Nasello (Point University in Georgia), signed to continue competing at the next level.
“That made me feel so great inside,” said Young, the only boys soccer player in Pasco County to sign with a Division I school on Signing Day. “No one’s ever said something like that to me, and it felt really great.”
Pearson touted Young’s ability to play any position on the field and said he thinks it is just the beginning of his budding career.
“Just this year alone playing midfield, he scored 30 goals and had 32 assists. Not only is he a goal scorer, but he’s a playmaker when just last year he was playing defense,” Pearson said. “When I said he’s the most complete player, I mean that. For Sean to get that scholarship and move on, I think it’s literally just the next step. I think he could go on to play professionally, whether here in the United States or over in Europe.”
Young said he always had hopes of playing at the collegiate level.
“Now that it’s finally coming true it’s great; it really is,” Young said. “We’ve had the greatest of times and it’s perfect.”
Whitaker, a shortstop and right-handed pitcher, was a key piece in Land O’ Lakes’ playoff run and the Class 6A-District 10 runner-up last season. He said it is great to take the next step.
“I’m just excited to get up there and make some plays,” Whitaker said. “Just to even have the opportunity to play college baseball is great, because most kids don’t get to do that, and I’m able to get that chance.”
Nasello said she fell in love with Point after visiting the school and working out with the team.
“It was definitely the family bond,” said Nasello, who tallied 12 goals and four assists this season. “It’s a smaller school, and I really like that too. I like the fact that it’s an older town, and it kind of reminds me of Ybor City. I really wanted to be part of the family.”
The Gators won their first playoff game since 2004 this year, and Nasello said that was because of the squad’s work ethic.
“From start to finish from the beginning of the season, we always worked hard,” Nasello said. “Not just winning (our first playoff game) in a really long time, but it didn’t matter what the score was. We always came back, and we deserved it. I’m really glad we made it as far as we did.”
—Follow Jeff Odom on Twitter: @JOdomLaker