LEXINGTON, Ohio (BVM) — Ryan Parker is coming off a special junior soccer season at Lexington High School. In 2019, he scored 33 goals and passed out 20 assists, earning him several postseason accolades, including an All-American nod. With his senior season underway, Parker has numerous goals set, but none bigger than leading his school to a state championship.
Parker has always been an all-around athlete, competing in swimming, and playing baseball and basketball in his youth. Parker has stuck with basketball in high school, but it is soccer — a sport he has been playing for 14 years — that remains his true love.
The passion for the game came from Parker’s dad, who coached him when he was younger and pushed him to become the best player he could be. By the time Parker reached middle school, he joined Blast FC Soccer Academy, where he quickly developed into a special player.
“Playing with all those talented players introduces you to a whole new level of soccer,” Parker said. “When I was able to hold my own, I knew that it was something special and that I wanted to keep playing soccer for a long time.”
The experience of playing club soccer and the competition he has faced in it throughout his career is something Parker credits for turning him into the player he is today. And that player is someone the Lexington boys soccer program is happy to have on its side.
In his first two seasons for the Minutemen, Parker admits he played a bit timid. But as a varsity starter from day one, the 17-year-old showed flashes of special play that would lead to his breakout season in 2019.
At the end of the 2018 season, Lexington lost in districts which gave them motivation to come back stronger the following year. With most of the roster returning, the Minutemen did just that. As a junior, Parker became a team leader, scoring 33 goals to couple along with 20 assists.
The soccer star would help lead his team to the state tournament, where they would lose a tough game in the semifinals to Warren. While it was a good season, the loss left a bitter taste in the mouths of Parker and his teammates.
“We had the most chemistry to ever go through Lexington last year,” Parker said. “All our returning players are hungry this year and want to compete for a state title. Last year’s loss left a sour taste in our mouth.”
Although his team didn’t win a state championship, Parker still had a special individual season in which he received some tremendous honors. The Lexington soccer star was named first team all-conference, conference offensive player of the year, all-Ohio, and an all-region Great Lakes team member.
Making the all-region team made Parker eligible to become an All-American. While he might not have expected it to happen at first, Parker was indeed named an All-American last fall, and the honor means the world to the Lexington senior.
“My family and coach had a special dinner planned for me to tell me about it,” Parker said about finding out he was an All-American. “Unfortunately I ruined it when I looked on Twitter and saw the announcement that was leaked. But it was still just an awesome experience and was crazy to find out.”
One of Parker’s good friends, Madison High School senior, Taylor Huff, was also named an All-American on the women’s side, allowing the two to share the experience together. Still, being the team-centric player he is, Parker would trade it all for a state title.
“I would give up every award to have last year’s Warren game back,” Parker said. “It leaves such a sour taste in your mouth and we just want another shot at it.”
Going into his senior year this fall, Parker had several goals in mind for himself personally. With a strong close to the season, the 17-year-old has a chance to break the program record for goals scored at Lexington, as well as the single-season goal and assist records. Already holding the program record for assists (47), Parker hopes to make progress on these milestones. But again, it’s the team success that matters the most.
“It will take a lot of hard work and dedication to get the goal record and it would be something special,” Parker said. “But at the end of the day, nothing comes before the team. If I didn’t score another goal all season but we bring home a state title, I would make that trade every day of the week.”
The Minutemen (5-1) have started out the season strong again, with just one loss so far. Parker notes that his team has an abundance of talent, but they are still working on progressing and building team chemistry. However, Parker believes his team has as good of a chance as any to get back to state.
“We always dream big at Lexington,” Parker said. “We want to go for it all and I think we have a very good chance at winning a state championship if we go 100% at practice and play every game like it’s our last. We’re just going into each game very positive and going all in 100% of the way.”
Admittedly, Parker hasn’t played his best soccer yet this fall, with nine goals and five assists on the season. The senior is aiming to pick up his play, but just wants to do whatever it takes to help his team accomplish their ultimate goal.
“If I want the goal scoring record I definitely have to pick it up personally,” Parker noted. “But when it comes down to it, it’s just a record and I would rather put a ring on the finger at the end of the season.”
While this year’s fall soccer season may be unlike any other, Parker has not noticed much of a difference in the atmosphere at Lexington. He also feels very fortunate to be able to finish out his prep soccer career on his own terms — something many high school athletes have not been able to do over the past several months.
Parker knows he would not be where he’s at today without support from his family, coaches, teammates, and fans. Ultimately, he hopes he has left his mark on the Lexington boys soccer program, and hopes his team as a whole can do the same after this season.
“My father has always raised me to be the best I can be so I’m going to walk in thinking I’m the best and walk out thinking I’m the best,” the Lexington senior said. “That’s just the mindset you have to have in life. No soccer team has ever brought home a state championship in Lexington history and that’s just the mentality we have to have and believe that no one can beat us.”
Once his career at Lexington is done, Parker will look to play college soccer. While he has no official offers yet, the senior has talked to several Division III schools, as well as Florida Gulf Coast University and Duke University at the DI level.
Parker will place a focus on academics first and foremost when looking for a school to attend. He plans to enter the engineering field, specifically seeking a career in software and computer science. He is also considering studying criminal justice, and working for the FBI someday.
The Lexington senior hopes to make an immediate impact on whatever college soccer team he plays for. But beyond that, playing professional soccer has always been a dream for Parker, and with the mindset he has, there’s a chance it could become a reality.
“It is definitely a dream before a goal,” Parker said about playing pro soccer. “As great as it sounds, it is incredibly tough to be able to play professionally. But at the end of the day, if you put in 110% every time you go out to the soccer field, there’s a possibility that you have a chance to become a pro.”