From honeydews to soccer balls

Junior forward Sydny Nasello plans to declare for the NWSL Draft at the end of the season, but hasn’t completely ruled out a return to the Bulls in 2022. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

No matter what junior forward Sydny Nasello was able to get her hands on growing up, if it could roll and be kicked, she would likely use it to improve her game. One item was consistent in her training, however — a round, green fruit that offered her a bit of a challenge.

“I would dribble honeydew melons through cones,” Nasello said. “It has an oval shape, so it’s harder to control … Anytime I would train, I would dribble with something small and work my way up to something big. That way it was so easy when I got to that big item.”

Even when she wasn’t outright training, her eye for soccer ball substitutes was keen.

“Walking down the street, if there was something round, she would start dribbling it,” Nasello’s father, Tim Nasello, said. “It could be a pine cone [and] she’d find a way to do something with it.”

The quirky, sometimes not-so-round objects she used for practice in her youth have translated into a fascinating bag of tricks on the field at USF. Nasello has scored 24 goals in her career with the Bulls so far, good for seventh best in program history, and is currently tied with former defender Siri Nordby for the most assists ever logged in a USF uniform with 28.

Although listed as a forward and leading the Bulls in goals the past two seasons, Nasello is hardly tied to one spot on the pitch. At any given time during the 90 minutes, she can be spotted in a central attacking role, out on either wing hugging the touchline or receiving the ball from a defender to spring an attacking move.

“I think my role on the team is just to make the players around me better,” Nasello said. “Me scoring goals is a reflection of the people that are creating the space for me to score. They just make my job a whole lot easier.” 

Even through her record-breaking high school career at Land O’ Lakes High School, where she scored 120 goals over four years, Nasello was always ready to play where her team needed her.

“She played center back, she played in the midfield, she played forward,” Vicky King, Nasello’s high school coach, said. “She has high energy, she’s very technical, her work rate is pretty high, she continued that through all her years and she matured as an individual and as a player.”

Nasello’s style of play, in her own words, was not influenced by any particular figure in the pro game, rather by her family and support system.

“I wouldn’t say I look up to anyone professionally,” she said. “I think my mindset in soccer is always to work until the people that I idolize become my rivals and who I play against.”

Although the USF women’s soccer team and the upcoming NCAA tournament are still her top priorities, Nasello said she is aware of the looming decision she must make after the season.

Her plan is to forgo her final year of eligibility and turn professional.

“My college career is done [after this season], as of right now,” Nasello said. “I am going to declare for the [NWSL] draft and see what happens there and if not, maybe go overseas to play for a little bit.”

Nasello will be hoping to hear her name called in the NWSL Draft on Dec. 18 by one of the league’s 12 clubs. With two expansion teams joining the established 10 in the selection process this year, there are more opportunities than ever before for Nasello to get a chance.

“I would like her to [be drafted by] a newer team,” Tim said. “So she has an opportunity to play right when she gets there and grow with a bunch of younger girls and develop [team chemistry]. I’m not worried about her [individual development] as a player.”

If selected, she would become the second player in the program’s history to be taken, following former striker Evelyn Viens’ fifth-overall selection by Sky Blue FC in 2020.

“Evelyn and Sydny are close, they’re good friends,” Tim said. “She was really happy for Evelyn to get the opportunity to do what she wants to do.”

Coming from a soccer family, with a sister, father and uncle who all played in college, Nasello grew up around the game. She understands how crucial the support system is and credits soccer for strengthening her relationship with her dad.

“I love the game and I’ve grown up with a passion for it, but it’s only as good as the people that got you there, and the people that are supporting you through it,” she said. “It’s not fun if you’re scoring goals [and you have] no one to celebrate with. So they honestly just make me have a bigger love for the game and every time I accomplish something.”

Although her current plan is for this upcoming NCAA tournament run to be her last, Nasello said she is prepared for another year in Tampa should the cards fall that way.

“I think God always has a plan and he knows what’s going to happen before I do,” Nasello said. “If that brings me back to school for another year, then I’m not opposed to [it]. I’m just keeping all my options open.”