Mitchell's record-setter receives a scholarship to Division II's Catawba.
By STEVE LEE
Published March 9, 2004
TRINITY - In Mitchell's season of firsts, this had to be inevitable.
Ryan Villiard is the first boys soccer player from the four-year school to sign a scholarship.
Villiard has accepted about a fourth of the $20,000 cost to attend Catawba, a Division II school in Salisbury, N.C. An honor student with a 3.3 GPA, Villiard expects to receive additional money for academics.
Villiard is the third Mitchell soccer player to sign, including Kate Slaughter (Saint Leo) and Kalyn Kinnard (Polk Community College).
"It makes you feel good," said Villiard, "just trying to set the way for others and letting them know it can be done."
Villiard is one of four Mitchell seniors to have played in each of the team's four seasons. The Mustangs did not win a game in 2000-01, followed by seasons of four, six and 12 wins.
Aside from this season's win total, Mitchell won its first district and conference titles and first playoff game (4-2 over Lake Gibson in a region quarterfinal).
"It was exciting not losing a game until almost halfway through the season," Villiard said. "We all had a good time."
"He's been through the bad times and the good times," coach Pio Rizzo said. "He's kind of riding off into the sunset."
Villiard's ride with the Mustangs this season included school records for goals (31) and points (75). He had three goals in two region games, including the lone score in Mitchell's 4-1 region semifinal loss to Gaither.
Villiard is the school's goal-scoring leader with 53.
"He leads our team," Rizzo said. "What he did for us you can't put into words.
"In practice, he was the hardest-working kid; in games, he was the hardest-working kid."
Villiard worked his way up through the ranks of the West Pasco Youth Soccer Association and followed in the footsteps of his brother, Jeremy, a 2002 Gulf graduate.
Unlike Ryan, Jeremy only played one full season and suffered through three injury-plagued seasons with the Bucs.
"He'd always tell me I could do it (playing college soccer)," Villiard said. "He wanted to see me get that far. It's something he wanted me to do, because he couldn't."
Catawba is coming off a 14-5-1 season that included winning the South Atlantic Conference title.