Despite the efforts of opposing defenses and injuries to teammates, Osceola's Michelle Mione capped her prep career with 57 goals.
By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2001
In her four seasons as an Osceola midfielder, Michelle Mione has been pushed around more than a beat up shopping cart.
She has faced double teams, triple teams, perhaps even quadruple teams. She has suffered a season-ending knee injury, pulled her groin, collected numerous bruises and has permanent cleat marks on her right shin.
As Mione ends her four-year run as the Warriors' most prolific goal-scorer, she certainly has some battle scars to take with her. It's not easy being a marked player, which she has been since her freshman year.
"I'll always have those cleat marks," Mione said. "But I liked being the kind of player everyone looked to in the big games."
Mione always seemed to come up big for the Warriors. She scored 57 goals this season, breaking her own school record for a second time. She originally set the mark as a freshman with 31 goals. As a junior, she scored 47.
Mione, who ends her career with 165 goals, is the Times All-County Player of the Year for a second consecutive season.
"We're going to miss her leadership more than anything," Osceola coach Ernie Whalen said. "We had nine games this season where we only had 11 players, so that put even more pressure on her. To do what she did was pretty impressive."
While the Warriors failed to get past the district tournament for the first time since Mione joined the team, the season could have been worse had Mione been part of Osceola's bad luck. Nine players suffered injuries; some were season-ending. The injuries even forced Mione to play sweeper during some of those short-handed games.
But her value was as a playmaker. There was no better example of that than in the first round of the Pinellas County Athletic Conference tournament against Lakewood.
Mione practically carried the Warriors, scoring three goals to go along with two assists in a 6-5 overtime win.
"That was a highlight," Mione said. "That and playing in the state tournament are things I'll never forget."
In her last game in the Class 2A, District 11 semifinals, Mione couldn't help but get emotional.
"There was about four minutes to go and I realized we weren't going to pull it out," Mione said. "I thought, "Oh my God, this is the last high school game I'll ever play.' It was so weird. When the whistle sounded I fell to the ground on my back and cried."
Her playing days are far from over. Mione earned a scholarship to Auburn, where she will join Palm Harbor University's Jen Walters. Mione will also continue playing club soccer this summer with the Clearwater Chargers.
And what will she be doing 10 years from now?
"I hope to still be playing soccer," she said.