Unlike just about every other high school in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area, Cypress Creek Middle/High School last year didn’t have a National Signing Day event for student-athletes moving on to the college ranks.
That’s because, the then first-year school on Old Pasco Road had no seniors, as it pulled strictly underclassman from Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch high schools.
Cypress Creek’s athletics department made up for lost time this year, however.
Dozens of students and friends, coaches, teachers and staff, and parents and family members gathered inside the school’s media center on Feb. 6 to celebrate the school’s inaugural signing day, as seven senior student-athletes representing four sports signed their National Letters of Intent (LOIs) to various institutions.
National Signing Day is held annually on the first Wednesday in February, a day where thousands of athletes nationwide can sign a binding letter of intent with a member school of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The school’s softball program yielded the most signees, with four — Payton Hudson (Pasco-Hernando State College), Jasmine Jackson (Savannah State University), Ashley Nickisher (Newberry College) and Neely Peterson (Colorado State University).
Baseball (Ray Camacho, Saint Leo University), football (Devin Santana, Lindenwood University-Belleville) and girls’ lacrosse (Jordan Alvis, Huntingdon College) had a signee apiece, respectively.
Among the group of seven, Peterson arguably represented the most notable signing.
The All-State catcher is one of the nation’s top softball players — ranked No. 63 on the Extra Innings Softball Extra Elite 100 national rankings for 2019.
Her stats underscore the national standing.
As a junior last season, Peterson posted a .544 batting average, seven home runs, 14 doubles, 27 runs and 43 RBIs. Defensively, she registered a .984 fielding percentage, with 57 putouts and five assists.
Peterson will set foot upon Colorado State’s campus in August as the Division I softball program’s first signee from the state of Florida.
She verbally committed back as a freshman — after being the first high school freshman offered a scholarship by a Colorado State athletic program.
Peterson boasted offers from several other blue-blood softball programs.
But, she fell in love with the Fort Collins, Colorado-based campus and the coaching staff’s family-like atmosphere at a softball camp there. Additionally, she has a chance to make her mark quickly, in line to be the team’s starting catcher next season.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long,” Peterson said, of finally signing the dotted line. “It feels great.
“I love making history, so it’s great to be able to do this for our school,” she added.
Peterson also expressed joy for her fellow softball teammates who signed alongside her; each was redistricted from Wesley Chapel following their sophomore seasons.
Said Peterson, “It’s really awesome, because just to see that everything they’ve worked for is kind of paying off, just as much as it is for me, because I get to see them hustling and all the hard work they put on the field, so just to see them find their future home makes me feel good.”
The inaugural signees were each met with balloons and celebratory cake, along with countless cheers and photo requests during the hourlong event, as memorabilia from each choice institution was visible in the room brimming with onlookers.
“It’s great, like being around all these great athletes, just knowing I’m a part of that, of creating a culture of great athletes for this school,” Devin Santana, who will play wide receiver at Lindenwood, said of the ceremony.
Becoming Cypress Creek’s first college football signee has added significance for Santana, who transferred from Wesley Chapel after his sophomore season.
“It’s crazy, like it’s a great feeling,” he said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking, because there’s a lot of pressure on me, but like I feel like I have the tools around me to be successful.”
Cypress Creek athletic director Justin Peliccia coined the event “a good look for our program.”
“It’s amazing to be able to put on this ceremony for the athletes, their parents and their coaches,” the athletic director said. “Having seven athletes move on to the next level, it’s just an awesome experience for myself as the athletic director, and the program.”
Peliccia was particularly complimentary of the varsity softball program — and its four signees — which collectively posted a 15-9 record and 10-4 district mark last spring.
“It was great to see a program roll out the end of the year and kind of bring us into, ‘Look, we have opportunities, we have chances, we do have athletes here, and we can make some noise.’”
Peliccia acknowledged that although many of the school’s varsity sports programs struggled in the school’s first year, strides have been made this year. He mentioned boys’ and girls’ soccer, and football, as a few who’ve upped their win totals.
“All of our programs this year have taken a step up,” he said. “Everything has taken a step ahead, which is what we want. Everything needs to develop and grow.”
Cypress Creek National Signing Day
Ray Camacho—Saint Leo University
Devin Santana—Lindenwood University-Belleville (Belleville, Illinois)
Jordan Alvis—Huntingdon College (Montgomery, Alabama)
Payton Hudson—Pasco-Hernando State College
Jasmine Jackson—Savannah State University (Savannah, Georgia)
Ashley Nickisher—Newberry College (Newberry, South Carolina)
Neely Peterson—Colorado State University
Published February 13, 2019