Osceola's Michelle Mione wants to continue playing for as long as possible.
By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 9, 2001
When the final whistle sounded, ending 80 minutes of soccer and four years of memories, Michelle Mione fell to the ground in a heap.
After nearly 100 games with Osceola, after all of the bumps, bruises and torn ligaments, after all of the goals, Mione's career was over.
She ended her senior season with 57 goals. In four seasons, Mione scored 165 goals, and it easily could have been more had a knee injury not forced her to miss the last two months of her sophomore season.
But on this February night in the Class 2A, District 11 semifinal, all Mione could think about was never being able to put on the Osceola jersey again.
"I thought, 'Oh, my God, this is the last high school game I'll ever play,"' Mione said.
"When the whistle sounded, I fell to the ground and just cried."
Opponents likely are smiling at the prospect of not having to face Mione anymore.
She made an immediate impact as a freshman, scoring 31 goals as a midfielder. She came back from the torn ligaments in her right knee to score 47 goals as a junior.
Mione's senior season was the only time the Warriors failed to advance past the district tournament.
In 2000, Osceola played in the Class 2A state final against Gulf Breeze, losing 5-0.
Mione was the Times Pinellas County Player of the Year for the second straight season. Now she is the first All-Suncoast Player of the Year.
"We're going to miss her leadership more than anything else," Osceola coach Ernie Whalen said. "We had nine games this season where we had only 11 (healthy) players, so that put a lot of pressure on her.
"To do what she did was pretty impressive."
Mione's most impressive performance came in the first round of the Pinellas County Athletic Conference tournament against Lakewood.
Mione faced double and triple teams but still had three goals and two assists in a 6-5 overtime win. Two of the goals came on perfectly placed free kicks.
"That was definitely a highlight," Mione said.
"That and playing in the state tournament are things that I'll never forget."
Mione, who also plays for the Clearwater Chargers club team, will play at Auburn next season. She plans to pursue a degree in journalism.
Soccer always has played a big role in her life. She used to try to keep up with her brother, Tony, in neighborhood pickup games. Tony, who is two years older, used to play for Osceola. Michelle tagged along and sat on the bench at the girls games, waiting until she could put on the jersey.
Mione said she hopes to wear a jersey for as long as she can.
"Soccer's been a big part of my life," Mione said.
"I hope to still be playing 10 years from now."