In four seasons as the starting goalkeeper on the Pinellas Park High girls soccer team, Alyssa Doheny never noticed a college scout on the sidelines.
She realized the team wasn't exactly viewed as a soccer juggernaut. It never had a winning season during her tenure.
"My freshman year was especially hard because it seemed I'd get mercy-ruled every single game," she said, referring to when a game is cut short because one team has an eight-goal lead. "I remember one game against Palm Harbor I had 40 shots coming at me. And that was only the first half."
But on Wednesday night, Doheny posed for photos after signing to play for the University of North Florida. She was one of 27 Tampa Bay area players to extend their soccer careers at a signing ceremony at the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa.
The common thread among the group? All play for the Clearwater Chargers Soccer Club.
Doheny credits the Chargers for helping her earn a college scholarship.
"The first tournament I played with the Chargers, I was shocked because the entire sideline was filled with coaches," she said. "The first time I saw it, I said, 'Wow, there's a lot of parents here,' and someone was like, 'No, those are all coaches.' I had never seen that before."
Peter Mannino, director of coaching for the Clearwater Chargers, said the number of players signing this year was unprecedented for a club that touts Major League Soccer players Jeff Cunningham and Bobby Boswell as well as Kenny Cooper, who plays professionally in England, among its alums.
"The club has had a long history, 30-plus years, of being sort of a place where talented soccer players want to achieve to get to the next level," Mannino said.
"The club provides an opportunity, provides the proper curriculum and provides a good coaching staff, a staff that has the knowledge to take these kids to the next level."
Having so many talented players together also makes recruiting easier for college coaches under time and monetary constraints, further fueling the club's reputation as the premier destination locally for players hoping to play in college.
"It's worth a lot for a college coach to see that many players at once," Mannino said. "It saves them money, especially when their budget is not what it used to be. … And not only that, they actually see the player being challenged because the level of play is so high."