LAKEWOOD RANCH — Taylor Newton, Jenn Trotter and McKaleigh Goodale have become inseparable.
The three Lakewood Ranch High seniors took the field together for the first time when they were 9 years old; and they’ve been playing softball together ever since.
Whether it’s cheering their teammates on from the dugout, huddling together in the middle of the infield or gossiping about their days, there’s rarely a day that goes by that the three best friends aren’t together.
So, it’s only fitting that the friends would be alongside one another, as they prepare to embark on the next journey in their softball careers.
On Dec. 7, Newton, Trotter and Goodale signed national letters of intent to play college softball.
“It’s really amazing,” Newton says. “I’m excited for them and for me, but it’s also bittersweet.”
“It’s amazing,” Goodale says. “We’ve been playing together for so long and we’ve seen each other (grow). So, to be able to do this together is a dream come true.”
Newton, a center fielder, will be heading to James Madison University next year to study biology with the hopes of becoming an orthodontist. Newton looked at a handful of other schools, but once she set foot on James Madison’s campus, she knew it was the school for her.
“Once I went to James Madison, I began comparing every other school to that school,” Newton says. “It has a beautiful softball facility and the campus is beautiful. It’s a really great school where I can get a great education and still play softball.”
With a new coach at the helm, Newton knows she’ll have to prove herself to earn a spot in the starting lineup.
“Everyone is going to be competing for a spot, so I definitely need to work hard and beat someone else out,” Newton says.”
Trotter, a second baseman, will play for the State College of Florida next year with the hope of eventually moving on to play for the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida or Florida Gulf Coast University.
“I’m a daddy’s girl, and I like to stay home,” says Trotter, who plans to major in athletic training. “I don’t feel like I can leave them yet.”
Goodale, who plays shortstop, will be heading to Wagner College, in New York.
Goodale also looked at some Ivy League schools, but in the end she felt Wagner College would be the best fit.
“It’s 20 minutes from the city and city life is something that excites me,” Goodale says. “I wanted a new (environment). Bradenton is very hometown, and I wanted to go to a fast-paced (city).”
Goodale, who originally planned to enter the medical field to become a neurosurgeon, is now leaning toward business, and she wants to make an immediate impact with the Seahawks.
“My (new) coach is expecting me to come in and take leadership of the team,” Goodale says. “He says I’m going to be a key component. I’m excited but also a little nervous.”
Joining Newton, Trotter and Goodale in the signing celebration were senior swimmers Will Kazokas and Danielle Valley.
Valley, who defended her 500-yard freestyle state title at the Class 2A Swimming & Diving Championships Nov. 8, will be heading to the University of Florida next year.
“It’s close to home, and I really (connected) with the team, coaches and campus in general,” Valley says.
“I called it,” Kazokas says. “I knew she wanted to go there. It was a known fact.”
Valley plans to study business with the hope of one day becoming a pilot.
For now, Valley will spend the remainder of her senior year swimming for the Sarasota Sharks before preparing to head off to Gainesville.
Kazokas, who also swims for the Sharks, will be heading to Cornell University. Kazokas chose Cornell over Harvard because of its location and the team itself.
“It was the one place I went where I immediately fit in with the team,” Kazokas says. “I love the coaches and it’s famous for my major — animal science. I also wanted to go far away and somewhere that’s cold.
“There’s a lot more energy (in college swimming) and it’s very team-oriented,” Kazokas says.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.