LAKEWOOD RANCH -- There shouldn't be any shortage of Lakewood Ranch athletes playing college sports next year.
Fourteen Mustangs signed national letters of intent on Tuesday, including nine for schools at the NCAA Division I level. That was the most the high school ever had in one day, according to Lakewood Ranch athletic director Shawn Trent.
The signees come from all of the sports seasons, including the just-concluded fall season that saw the Mustangs go to the state volleyball tournament and qualify its boys and girls cross country teams for the state meet.
Nicole Grant, the top player on the volleyball team, signed to play sand volleyball at Florida Atlantic University, and her teammate, Courtney Rapp, signed with State College of Florida.
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"Everything there fits together good for me, and I like sand volleyball better than indoor," Grant said. "It's harder and more of a challenge. The game is completely different. Being able to move in the sand is probably the hardest part of it. I weighed out all my options, and this was the best for me."
Ashley Bongart, the Mustangs' top tennis player, signed to continue her career at the University of Tennessee.
"I was talking to Auburn and Florida, but Tennessee was the first school to offer, and I was 100 percent positive that's what I wanted. Tennessee fits all my criteria. I was looking for a good tennis school that had good academics."
The Lakewood Ranch softball team had five players sign, including two with Division I Schools: Jackie Schoff (Florida International) and Talli Sharp (Stetson). The other softball signees were standout pitcher Amanda Rak with Florida Institute of Technology, Kahlie Bickerstaff (Hillsborough C.C.) and Alicia Wagner (McDaniel University).
"I am definitely really, really excited. It's been a really long journey, and I finally found my fit, and I am ready to go and play ball," Schoff said. "They have what I want to study. I want to major in fitness, and the coaches were great and the players on the team are connected well."
Four players off the Lakewood Ranch baseball team signed. Catcher Matt Roberts and pitcher Scott Stout are going to Florida Gulf Coast, Cameron Pearcey signed with Coastal Carolina, and Colton Chupp is headed the University of South Carolina Upstate.
"The baseball program at Florida Gulf Coast is amazing, and the coaches there are awesome. I went down there and met my teammates, and it was a great experience," Roberts said. "Me and Scott have grown up together, and it's great to get to play with him for four more years in college."
Pearcey gave up football his senior year to concentrate on baseball, and the middle infielder said the move enabled him to get a scholarship.
"This day means a lot to me and my baseball friends. If I would've played football, then Coach (Gary) Gilmore (Coastal Carolina) would not have been able to see me play," said Pearcey, who plays shortstop for the Mustangs. "It was definitely a worthwhile sacrifice. I see myself playing the middle infield or outfield in college."
Talia Falco, a multi-sport athlete, signed with Kent State of the Mid-American Conference for track. She plans to focus on the heptathlon.
"They have one of the top fashion merchandising programs in the country, and that's what I want to major in," Falco said.
Luke Hanner, who just finished off a banner senior season by winning the 200-yard freestyle at the state meet and earning All-American status, signed with Drexel University in Philadelphia.