Jersey and Prayers Inspire Soccer Team

There have been a lot of consistent sights from the Lady Spartan’s playoff run. Freshman standout Jocelyn Charette has scored goals in bunches. Goalkeeper Shannon Aitken continues to rack up the shutouts. Forward Samantha Robinson remains a playmaker and sets up scoring opportunities for her teammates. Every game has ended with the team celebrating a win.

But there has been a constant sight of a different kind during the team’s run. It’s one of a more somber tone. A single white jersey has stood next to the team’s bench during each of their victories in the NCAA Division II tournament.

It was the pre-season jersey worn by Natasha Sackett, the freshman who was struck while riding her scooter on Kennedy Boulevard.

“It was our little way of saying she’s with us,” said head coach Bobby Johnston.

Sackett’s bond with the team began before the season. She came to tryouts as a walk-on, hoping to make the team.

Unfortunately, injuries and other circumstances prevented her from making the squad. Determined to be part of the team, she accepted a role as manager. Her presence made an impact on the players.

“She was a sweet girl,” said forward Shelby Kuni.

“She worked real hard and was dedicated to the team.”

Charette says Sackett gave her a lift in many ways.

“She was real kind,” she said. “She’d always give you a ride on her scooter.”

The jersey was originally going to be sent to Sackett. However, the family has requested no gifts. The players credit Johnston as the one who came up with the idea.

The jersey made its first appearance before a game against Nova Southeastern.

The players circled around it during their pre-game ritual. The Lady Spartans went on to win 3-0, and the jersey has been with them ever since. It’s now covered with signatures and messages.

“It has brought us together,” says Kuni. “It’s definitely coming with us to Pensacola.”

It has been an emotional time for the team. The team knows that there is one member who is missing the celebration. That single white jersey serves as extra motivation. Midfielder Courtney Evans puts the best perspective on it.

“She’s working hard,” she says. “It makes us want to go out and work just as hard. We’re playing for her.”

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