For many students, the chance to attend college is the ultimate payoff for years of working hard to achieve academic goals.
Others are smart enough to get full scholarships based on their ability to score goals.
Wednesday night, at a ceremony sponsored by the Clearwater Chargers Soccer Club held at the Safety Harbor Spa, two such students from area high schools officially signed letters of intent to play soccer at the collegiate level.
Jennifer Casey of Shorecrest Prep will attend Brown University to play for the Bears, and Northeast High’s Lindsey Brown will be heading to Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, to play for the Lady Flames.
“It feels great. I’ve put a lot of work in over the years and it’s great to be able to go to the college I want to go to and continue my soccer career,” Casey said after the ceremony.
Asked how difficult it would be to balance playing sports with the rigorous academic workload at an Ivy League school, Jennifer was realistic. “It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be really busy both on and off the field.”
While the academic standards at Lee may not considered quite as stringent as those of Brown, the soccer standards could possibly be higher; while the Bears barely finished above .500 in 2010, the Lady Flames captured their third consecutive NAIA national championship.
“After visting the school, I fell in love with it, " Brown said. The coach really liked me, and the team was so welcoming. I’m excited, very excited.”
Even though they are getting the chance to go to college because of their soccer skills, Chargers coach Garth Pollonais says the girls, and all the Chargers players, have the drive, desire and determination to succeed both on and off the field.
“We do our utmost best to care about players, what happens to them on the field and off the field…Everybody wants to win, but if we do it right, everything takes care of itself. And that’s what we have been doing,” Pollonais said.
Asked specifically about Lindsey and Jennifer as players, the coach had nothing but praise for them.
“Two outstanding young ladies. (Jennifer) has a natural instinct for scoring goals, and I’ve seen how much improvement Lindsey has made, and the commitment she has to the game. I’m extremely excited about these two players,” he said.
One thing the girls are not excited about: living in cold weather cities.
“I hate the cold,” Jennifer said flatly.
“I’ll have to get used to it. At least they get an autumn there!” Lindsey added.