Belchertown senior Sean O’Neill commits to Merrimack soccer

  • Belchertown senior Sean O’Neill will play college soccer at Merrimack after signing a National Letter of Intent Thursday. GAZETTE STAFF/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Sean O’Neill committed to play soccer at Merrimack on Thursday. He was joined by, from left, Belchertown coach Zach Siano and his family Shay O’Neill, Mimi O’Neill and Devin O’Neill. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Belchertown senior Sean O’Neill will play college soccer at Merrimack after signing a National Letter of Intent Thursday at the school. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Belchertown senior Sean O’Neill is joining a Merrimack program that plays at the Division II level but will transition to Division I in the next few years. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Published: 2/8/2018 7:27:13 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Sean O’Neill got in on the ground floor.

The Belchertown senior signed a National Letter of Intent Thursday to play soccer at Division II Merrimack.

Division II, for now.

The Warriors plan to transition to the Division I level in the next few years, O’Neill said.

“I’ve always been striving to play at the highest level possible,” O’Neill said. “There are so many other things that attracted me to Merrimack, the icing on the top really was the Division I stuff.”

Merrimack showed up on O’Neill’s radar late in the recruiting process. He was training with the Western Mass Pioneers last spring when Evan Burokas noticed him. Burokas is an assistant at Merrimack who spent three years playing for the Pioneers.

He liked what he saw from O’Neill and invited him to see the school in the winter.

At the time, O’Neill was considering Bryant, Southern New Hampshire and Merrimack. Southern New Hampshire wanted a decision, so O’Neill lined up his visits.

“Me and my family fell in love with (Merrimack) coach (Tony) Martone,” O’Neill said. “He’s a really warm guy, was really kind, sold the program really well.”

He enjoyed the family atmosphere the team possessed despite featuring players from all over the world. O’Neill plans to study political science and is interested in potentially going to law school.

The Warriors won the Northeast-10 title last season and played in the NCAA Tournament. O’Neill will play his natural position of defensive midfielder.

“Nothing’s going to be given to me when I come in there,” O’Neill said. “I’m going to work my tail off and try to earn minutes as soon as I can.”

One school that didn’t make he cut was Western New England, where his father, Devin O’Neill, is the head coach.

“My dad’s been my coach at the club level for the past few years. He’s got a great mind of the game, he’s really passionate about it,” Sean O’Neill said. “That was never really something I considered. I wanted to expand beyond that.”

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