It took a year of college for Erin Mitchell to realize that the three-time Largo soccer MVP missed the sport she started at age 12.
After high school graduation in 1999, Mitchell selected Florida State to continue her education. She played at the intramural level on a Seminole club team.
"I had looked into playing college soccer but didn't really push it," said Mitchell, 22.
"I had torn my ACL my junior year at Largo, and that's the primary time college coaches do their recruiting," she said. "I got a few offers, but not too many."
While Mitchell competed in intramurals, she was noticed by a coach who was headed to Austin Peay to be an assistant for the university's inaugural women's squad.
Former FSU soccer playerKelley Poole-Guth was hired to recruit for Austin Peay's team and be its head coach.
"When I was told about Erin, I was happily surprised she accepted an offer to visit us at Austin Peay," Poole-Guth said.
"I anticipated she would make an impact on the team with her talent and leadership skills. She stepped right up and was a good example for the whole team.
"It was a great decision for Erin to come here and play," Poole-Guth said. "It would have been a shame for her not to play soccer at the college level. It's players like Erin that make good things happen."
In the program's first year, the Lady Govs were winless. But its third season, this year, ended with a 8-9-2 record.
Mitchell, a defender, played a key role in the success.
"I've played defense since I first started playing years ago, and mostly at centerback," Mitchell said. "I've tried midfield, but defense is more natural to me.
"Basically, as a centerback, you need to be able to control the ball and be poised. You've got to see the field and know when to play a long ball. The key is to have control with the ball."
Mitchell served as captain the past two years and was an All-Ohio Valley Conference second-team selection this season.
She tied for third in the league in assists with five, and her 11 points were 10th in the conference and second on the Austin Peay squad. Her 19 career points are first in the team's record books, as are her nine assists.
"It's nice to have that place in the record books," Mitchell said, "but I never looked at any of that during the season. The highlight for me was the friendships I made _ incredible friendships."
Mitchell credits Poole-Guth for building a strong program and her parents, Donna and Glenn, for their constant support.
"My brother and I both played soccer, and my parents were at the fields from the time I was 10 years old," Mitchell said. "They have always been super supportive of us."
Mitchell is a biology major and will graduate on schedule from Austin Peay this spring.
Her future plans may one day include coaching youth soccer, but first she will fulfill a two-year commitment to the Peace Corps.
MORE SOCCER: Renee Massie (Seminole) played 54 games in her four-year career at Nova Southeastern.
The senior led the defense in a 2-1 upset over Lynn in a Sunshine State Conference quarterfinal.
+ Nicole Paquette (Seminole) saw action as a goalkeeper for Nova Southeastern.
The sophomore played in five games and combined for shutouts against Tampa and Florida Tech.
+ Junior Paul Kolovos (Palm Harbor University/Clemson) played 12 of 18 games at midfield and forward for Florida International.
FOOTBALL: Local athletes on teams selected for bowl games include Iowa defensive back Marcus Paschal (Largo); Pittsburgh senior running back Darren McCray (Lakewood); Florida State junior linebacker Marcello Church (Lakewood) and sophomore wide receiver Chris Davis (St. Petersburg Catholic); Miami junior running back Jeff Malley (Shorecrest) and sophomore punter/kicker Jon Peattie (Countryside); Florida redshirt freshman defensive end Julian Riley (Lakewood), offensive lineman Chris Parker (Lakewood), tight end Otto Graham (Admiral Farragut) and long snapper Brandon Abbaspour (Boca Ciega); Troy State sophomore receiver Martin Teal (Northeast); and Georgia Tech backup quarterback Pat Carter (Lakewood).
Paschal started all 11 games for Iowa. He recorded 56 tackles, the team's third highest.
Davis averaged 17.2 yards receiving for the Seminoles, the longest a 50-yarder.
Peattie scored 81 points for the Hurricanes on 13 of 22 field goals and 42 consecutive PATs.
Teal played in 10 games, compiling 50 yards in receptions.
VOLLEYBALL: Melanie Custer (Clearwater) closed out her four-year career at Gardner-Webb after playing 376 games, the second highest for GWU.
The setter collected 1,999 assists, 729 digs and 92 service aces for a No. 1 ranking. The two-time captain posted a career-high 62 assists against Jacksonville State.
BASEBALL: Tim Bascom (Dunedin) is a sophomore right-hander for Central Florida and battling for the top spot in the Golden Knights' rotation.
+ Joe Jiannetti (St. Petersburg/Daytona Beach CC), Boof Bonser (Gibbs), Nick Massett (Pinellas Park/St. Petersburg JC) and Evan Brannon (St. Petersburg/St. Petersburg College) were among local professional players heading up a Little Big Leaguer baseball camp last week in St. Petersburg.
Thirty players, ages 5-13, participated in the three-day event. Angel Natal, former coach at Gibbs High School and now with Ripkin Baseball, also helped.
Jiannetti plays for the New York Mets AA club. Bonser is with the Minnesota Twins, Massett the Texas Rangers and Brannon the Baltimore Orioles.
BASKETBALL: Sophomore Dominique Redding (Clearwater) is averaging 11 minutes of action and 3.1 points for Tennessee.
In a 70-67 win over Stanford, Redding scored six points.
As a freshman, the forward saw playing time in 30 games and appeared in four of the Lady Vols' NCAA contests.
+ Junior guard Tuck Taylor (Palm Harbor University) is averaging 22 minutes of play and 7.4 points for West Florida.
+ Matt Walker (Seminole) is a junior guard at West Florida. He is averaging 1.3 points.
+ Senior tri-captain Natalie Wilkinson (Clearwater) is a guard for Southern Wesleyan.
+ Sophomore Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen (Boca Ciega) scored 10 points for Georgia State in a loss to No. 5 North Carolina.
As a freshman point guard, Roegiers-Jensen played in all 29 games and averaged seven points.
_ News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 796-5559; e-mailed to namorgan46msn.com, or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.