TAMPA — Sydny Nasello says no one can possibly love a family more than she loves hers.
The proof is all around and sometimes tattooed on her.
Wednesday afternoon, Nasello, the brightest star on the No. 22-ranked USF playoff soccer team, sat in the lobby of the Bulls sports complex and nodded toward the green and gold walls.
“I’m here in large part because I love my family so much,” said Nasello, a Land O’ Lakes High alumnus who committed to USF at 16. “I had offers from several schools from around the country, but I’m a homebody. I grew up here and I didn’t see myself playing without the support of my family. It’s heartwarming to celebrate the victories with them and to also get through the tough times together.
“My family is at every home game, and sometimes even at the away games. I hear them cheer and it means a lot.”
Today at 1 p.m., when the Bulls (12-3-3) host N.C. State (8-8-2) in a first-round NCAA Tournament game, you can bet the whole Nasello crew will be there — mom Felicia and dad Tim, along with sisters Holly, 26, Lacy, 23, and Lexi, 16 — and they will be cheering loudly.
They also will be cheering from a position of authority because all except Felicia were avid soccer players. Her dad helped win an NAIA championship in the mid 1980s for Sangmon State (now known as Illinois Springfield), Holly played for Point University in Georgia, Lacy just finished up playing for the University of Tampa, and Lexi is busy in the local club soccer scene.
The best of the Nasello bunch? That probably goes to Sydny, who isn’t the biggest player on the field at 5-foot-3 but certainly is among the fastest, strongest and toughest.
Nasello likes to repeat a certain saying her dad taught her: “It’s not how big you are, It’s how big you play.”
Her prowess certainly shows up on the stat sheet where she ranks seventh all time in career USF goals (24) and fifth all time in points (76).
This year she leads the team with 11 goals and five assists, and is projected to be a first-round pick in the National Women’s Soccer League draft on Dec. 18, making her only the second USF woman to be drafted into the NWSL. Evelyne Viens was the No. 5 overall pick in 2020.
But no matter what city she ends up playing for, her family will always be near and dear.
“We will talk every day,” she said. “We will stay close.”
Then she explained the meaning behind the 5-inch tattoo on her left forearm, which begins with a drawing of heart riding on an ocean wave, flowing into a palm tree and the sun. Just beyond the sun is a string of six little dots.
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The heart is for love and the palm tree, wave and sun represent the beach condo the family gathers at every summer. The dots represent Sydny, her three sisters and two cousins, Jennifer Stewart and Stephanie Sharpe.
All the girls have the same tattoo, except for teenager Lexi.
“Lexi was so mad at me,” Felicia said with a chuckle. “I said when you get older, fine, get that tattoo, but not when you’re 16.”
All of the sisters do have four vertical dots tattooed behind one of their ears. One of the dots is circled, starting with the oldest sister’s, Holly, at the top, and so on down the line.
Nasello has one more tattoo she designed on her leg, which starts with the words “I love you,” copied from her mom’s handwriting from a letter. Below that are her parents’ birthdates, with two heartbeats (like lines on a heartbeat monitor) connected to all the sisters’ birthdates.
Nasello says when soccer ends, she will become a policeman and eventually pursue a job in the FBI.
“I want to help people,” she said. “I want to help everybody around me.”
But first things first, which means helping her team win today with her contingent of familial fans in attendance.
“It’s a strong cheering section (of Nasello’s),” USF coach Denise Schilte-Brown said. “She has a strong support system and she is a strong person. It shows in how she plays and in everything she does.”