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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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High school soccer player case dismissed

LAND O’ LAKES — The case of a Sunlake High soccer player denied eligibility after he transferred from Pasco High has come to an end after the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland dismissed an appeal filed by the teenager’s father.

Dennis Alfonso, the attorney for the Pasco County school board, notified board members of the dismissal in an email Friday, calling it good news for the district.

The court’s action came after an attorney for the soccer player’s family filed a motion for a voluntary dismissal.

In essence, though, the case was already a moot point as far as Michael Mazza’s opportunity to play soccer his senior year was concerned. Sunlake High’s soccer team finished its season a month ago, losing to Merritt Island in a 3A state semifinal match.

Mazza’s father, Salvatore Mazza, filed the appeal after Circuit Judge Linda Babb ruled against him in November and said that the Pasco County school board has the authority to require student athletes who transfer to sit out from sports one calendar year.

The policy, which went into effect this school year, is aimed at preventing students and coaches from circumventing recruiting rules.

Even before his family took the school board to circuit court, Mazza made his case before the school district’s Athletic Transfer Participation Committee, which is the procedure outlined in the board policy.

In the appeal before that committee, the student’s family said the reason for his transfer was not to play soccer, but because he faced threats after he provided the school with information about vandalism at Pasco High.

School district officials, though, said they had no record that Mazza complained about bullying, and that before the vandalism took place Mazza told the Pasco High soccer coach that he planned to transfer to Sunlake High to play soccer.

The committee ruled against Mazza, and the superintendent agreed with the committee, which led the boy’s father to file a lawsuit against the board seeking a temporary injunction so the teenager could join the Sunlake team.

Babb denied the temporary injunction Nov. 21.

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