Neuqua Valley’s Ryan Ross keeps it fresh, continues to score goals

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Few freshmen make an impact at the varsity level in boys soccer, and fewer still become four-year starters.

Neuqua Valley forward Ryan Ross is one of those elite players, and only recently has come to realize how difficult a feat that is.

“It’s extremely hard as a freshman,” Ross said. “I never really noticed until this year seeing other freshmen trying to play up at this level.

“When I was a freshman I was at least four or five inches shorter. [I was] getting pushed off the ball so easily, so I had to play one-touch and just get the ball off my foot and get quick runs and I had to use my speed to get past the bigger guys.”

Ross has been doing that with increasing frequency. The Bowling Green recruit has led or co-led the Wildcats in scoring all four seasons. He has 46 career goals, including 16 last year and 15 to go with five assists so far this season.

It all began when then-Neuqua coach Tony Kees noticed something in a scrawny freshman.

“Kees gave me the opportunity to play at the varsity level, which most coaches wouldn’t do, and I had to prove myself and play off the other players,” Ross said. “I had to use their strengths to help combine with mine and help keep up on the field since I was so young and little.”

Ross is stronger now, but the speed is still there. More importantly, the desire is stronger than ever.

“I’ve been playing since I was little and soccer is just my passion,” Ross said. “So I’ve always loved it and never had a day where I came out here not wanting to play.”

Neuqua Valley coach Skip Begley loves Ross’ aggressiveness.

“He can take a very average ball or a ball that nobody’s even worried about and he can turn it into danger and turn it into a goal,” Begley said. “I can remember his first goal of his sophomore year, he got a ball in the midfield … and three touches later he’s juked by a guy and the ball’s in the back of the net. Those are special kind of players.”

Ross displayed his talent Sept. 23 in a 2-0 win over South Elgin. He scored both goals, including a short-handed strike in which he dribbled alone through four defenders before using the last man to screen Storm goalkeeper Colton Wenig on a left-footed shot from 12 yards.

The spectacular goal didn’t surprise Neuqua goalkeeper Brady Moody, who often sees Ross perform similar feats.

“Everywhere that you are, he puts it where you aren’t,” Moody said.

“No matter how good the goalie, he’ll find a way to score. In big games, he comes up big and scores unbelievable goals for us.”

Ross said he is driven to score goals and isn’t fazed by missed shots, a mentality which Begley wishes more players had.

“He’s like a true goal scorer,” Begley said. “He’s never met a shot he doesn’t like. He’s going to put the ball on the goal, one way or the other.

“He understands that if you score one or two you’ve changed the whole face of the game. You just have to keep that approach of, yeah, that one didn’t go in but the next one will.”

With his legacy at Neuqua secured, Ross now has a different kind of goal in mind.

“A state championship would obviously be fantastic,” Ross said. “And for the younger guys who do look up to me, I’m just doing what I can.”

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