Pinellas Player of the Year: Ryan Cooksey, Sr., Palm Harbor University
At 5-foot-9, 140 pounds, Cooksey does not loom large on the soccer field. But he played a pivotal role as a defender for the Hurricanes, who made the playoffs and advanced to the region final for the first time since 2012. Against Orlando Freedom in the region final, Cooksey tore his MCL 10 minutes into the game and continued to play. “My knee was swollen to twice its size afterward. But I wanted to be out there. It was such an amazing season. Most of us played together for awhile and we dedicated ourselves to making the playoffs,” Cooksey said.
Fondest memory: In the Class 5A, District 7 final against rival East Lake, Cooksey had the winning penalty kick. “I know a lot of the players on East Lake. It was great to have that goal and kind of have bragging rights,” he said.
Final stats: Though he was not much of a scorer (two goals, two assists on the season), Cooksey made his mark on the defensive end and helped the Hurricanes give up just 16 goals all season.
What’s next: Cooksey has applied to Vanderbilt and will know whether he has been accepted on April 1. The Commodores only offer club soccer, and Cooksey plans to play if he goes there.
Did you know? Throughout the playoffs, Cooksey decided not to wash his jersey. “Soccer players have weird superstitions. We kept winning, so I just went with it,” he said.