Seven Lakes High School, Spartans, Texas high school girls soccer, Arianna Ghafari, Baylor

Late bloomer Ghafari shines for Spartans

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 1/12/20

Seven Lakes senior forward Arianna Ghafari considers herself a “late bloomer.” Her rise as one of the top players in the Houston area did not really begin until her sophomore year of high school.

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Seven Lakes High School, Spartans, Texas high school girls soccer, Arianna Ghafari, Baylor

Late bloomer Ghafari shines for Spartans

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Seven Lakes senior forward Arianna Ghafari considers herself a “late bloomer.” Her rise as one of the top players in the Houston area did not really begin until her sophomore year of high school.

It’s an interesting notion, considering the Baylor signee has already accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.

“My effort is everything to me,” said Ghafari, last season’s District 19-6A Most Valuable Player. “When I was younger, I had no skills. I kept working my way up. I played club soccer all my life, but I wasn’t with the top players from the beginning. It took me a while to get there. But my effort, my speed and now gaining the skills, it’s made me the player I am today.”

It was during Ghafari’s freshman season when Seven Lakes coach Kaitlyn Eidson moved her up to varsity and her club coach moved her up to the elite ranks. That’s when epiphany struck for Ghafari.

“That’s when I started believing in myself, like, ‘I’ve got this. I know what I want to do,’” Ghafari said.

Ghafari has scored five goals for the 4-0-2 Spartans, an impressive, though not atypical, start to the season after she tore the lateral collateral ligament in her knee in April.

Ghafari chose to bypass surgery and spent all of last summer in physical therapy. She missed the first couple weeks of school, but said she is now better than ever.

“If anything, I feel stronger,” Ghafari said. “I go harder into tackles. It made me 1,000 times better as a player, because the way I tore it, I went weak into a tackle. I was scared and tore my knee. Now I go into everything as hard as I can. I’m not scared.

“It’s increased my confidence a bunch.”

Which is ideal, because Ghafari’s whole plan is to make the absolute most of her senior year.

“I have to give it all I’ve got,” Ghafari said. “I just want to win as many games as I can with my team. I’m a captain, I want to be a leader. I want us to keep our heads up and show we can be a dominant team in Katy ISD.”

Ghafari and Eidson are excited about an experienced Spartans team that has great chemistry. It’s a senior-laden club led by the likes of Ghafari, Peyton Guidry, Rachel Oberman and Macie Nguyen, among others.

“This team just puts in so much effort in everything we do,” Ghafari said. “This is the most team chemistry I’ve seen in a while. We all love each other and we’re all so proud of each other. We work hard for each other, and when you have that, then you know this can be your season.”

Ghafari is doing her part. She could not care less about stats or accolades. Her purpose is the inclusion of others.

“I don’t want to be a selfish player,” she said. “This isn’t just my last season, it’s a lot of these girls’ last season. I want to do what’s best. It’s about winning for the team.

“If I’m two-on-one versus the goalie, and she’s in the middle, I’m not taking that (shot) myself. I’m passing. I have trust in my team that they’re as capable as I am.”

Which is pretty capable. Eidson said Ghafari is a natural leader, a “great example of success being earned.” Eidson promoted Ghafari to the varsity as a freshman because of her commitment and drive more than anything physical or skill-wise.

“What makes her special is her work ethic,” Eidson said. “She needed growth in some soccer areas, but the intangibles that she had are things you can’t coach. It’s really what will make her a fantastic player at the next level. The work ethic, her communication she has with her teammates. She will run through a brick wall for her teammates.”

Ghafari’s confidence has never been higher. Before, she would take the ball outside the flanks of the field before sending a cross pass to a teammate. Dribble, cross. Dribble, cross. Dribble, cross. Now her focus has been finishing those attacks, driving down the flanks and scoring that goal herself.

It’s a perfect example of Eidson’s claim that her star player is more confident in the ways she can take over a game.

“I want to be confident in myself taking on players, getting closer to the goal and scoring those,” Ghafari said. “I want to be my best. And I want my team to be its best.”

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