DURHAM, N.H. - Nicola Chicco (Claymont, Del.) of the University of New Hampshire men's soccer team has signed a professional contract with Triestina of Serie B of the Italian League, the second division, and will forego his final year of eligibility at UNH. Chicco signed a three-year contract with the club. He is the first Wildcat men's soccer player to play professionally in Europe.

"I always knew Nico had a chance to play at the next level. It was something I had discussed with him, and I'm happy that he is getting this opportunity," said UNH head coach Rob Thompson. "Even with Nico's departure, I still feel that we have the building blocks in place for a run at the America East championship this season."

Chicco, a native of Italy who moved to the United States with his family when he was 10, was UNH's leading scorer and an America East First Team selection in 2002, totaling nine goals and five assists for 23 points. Over his three-year career Chicco started 38 games and played in 50 of a possible 51 games while registering 13 goals and eight assists for 34 points, good for 13th on UNH's career points list.

Triestina, the club Chicco joins, finished fifth in 2002-03, one spot out of moving into Serie A, the top division of soccer in Italy. Each year the top four clubs from Serie B advance while the bottom four clubs from Serie A drop down a division. For the upcoming season, Chicco will be loaned to a Serie C club yet to be determined to play full-time.

In recent years, UNH has sent numerous players to the professional ranks, including Mike Keevan, Mike Veneto, Ryan DiNunzio, Willie Schweitzer, Ryan Leib and Ross Sandler. "I think we've shown that our players can develop in college and move on to professional careers," said Thompson.

View: Mobile | Desktop