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Sickles' big target takes aim at goals

Nick Vermette is over 6 feet tall, making him a target for opposing defenders and for his passing teammates.

By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 27, 2002


TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- After each soccer match, Sickles senior Nick Vermette usually requires time with the team trainer in the locker room to have his wounded feet, ankles and legs cared for. Because he is so big and so proficient a scorer, he is usually attacked in matches.

At 6 feet 1 inch, the 18-year-old striker from Town 'N Country really stands out.

Vermette's size makes him a big target for aggressive defenders -- but it also means he's easily spotted by teammates trying to pass him the ball.

"He stands out and most teams whack him on his legs and feet to try to slow him down," Sickles boys coach Mike Rady said. "Before the season began, he had a pulled left hamstring and as that healed the other one was injured. Yet even playing injured, he is one of the top scorers in the county. He has 19 goals and two assists."

Districts are scheduled for this coming week on the Sickles field, and the Gryphons enter the first match 10-4 and hopeful for a first- or second-place finish. The top two teams in each district move on to regional competition and single-elimination matches.

Sickles opens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against Durant.

Vermette started playing recreational soccer at 5 and within a few years, he was into the elite competition. Three years ago he joined the Clearwater Chargers, a youth club team. He joined the Gryphons this season.

He gained valuable experience playing defense in club competition that helps him contribute more to his team on offense.

"When we lose the ball during a run, my defensive experience provides me with some knowledge of how to stop the other team from making a breakaway, while most of our team is pushing forward to score," Vermette said. "My primary job is to find open space for teammates to get the ball to me. However, I also look for open teammates to pass to for a shot."

Vermette is working hard off the playing field to prepare for college. He carries a 4.2 GPA and takes honors courses. His best subject is English, but he also does well in the sciences.

On the soccer field, he gives credit to midfielder teammates Nathan Vansteenburgen and Sachin Diwadkar, who frequently send him the passes that lead to goals.

"Everybody works together as a team and we are friends too," he said.

Soccer can be a rough sport, said Vermette, who gets his fair share of wayward kicks.

"I don't think every kick is intentional . . . one thing that puzzles me is the how often some refs ignore it. Maybe they think because of my size I should be able to protect myself more," Vermette said. "But I love soccer, even when it gets rough. I play injured or I play healthy, but I play."

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