It took Mariah Fernandez four seasons to set the North Fort Myers girls soccer scoring record with her 64 goals from 2005 to 2009.
Melinda Lukas, who started her career the year after Fernandez graduated, thought maybe, someday, she’d have a shot at breaking that mark. It came last year as a junior.
On Monday night, Lukas kept on scoring, getting a hat trick against Cypress Lake for career goals 99, 100 and 101 in the Red Knights’ 8-0 District 3A-11 quarterfinal win. By topping the century mark, Lukas became the school’s all-time leader in goals scored for boys and girls soccer. Beau Reed owns the boys record with an even 100.
“We found out what (the record) was and I thought that it would be nice to get there, but I never decided that I wanted to until toward the end of my (freshman) year, after I started playing,” said Lukas, a four-year Red Knights starter who has 32 goals and counting this season.
“I told myself ‘I want to beat that record.’ I wanted to do it.”
North coach Donna Agostinelli thought 50 career goals would have been an impressive mark for Lukas, especially since she missed time her freshman and junior years with injuries. Lukas broke her left ankle as a freshman and suffered two injuries to her right ankle junior year. She missed 21 games in all.
“So who knows where the record would be now,” Agostinelli said.
Mike Lukas, Melinda’s father and a 15-year club coach, said it was tough to watch his daughter struggle with those injuries.
“I was devastated as a parent to watch my kid take an injury,” he said. “She just loves the game. You can’t take that away from her.”
Melinda’s love of the game was what drove her to come back and use a strong sophomore season to close in on the record, which included 37 goals scored in 15 games. According to Max Preps, it was the third highest scoring average in the nation that year.
“I started to get really frustrated and I didn’t want to risk any major injury,” she said. “But I decided I just wanted to play because I really wanted to get the record at the time, and I didn’t want to let coach (Agostinelli) or the team down.”
“So I kept playing and I just got smarter with the way I played and so far I’ve been able to keep myself healthy the last two years,” said Lukas, who will lead North into its district semifinal game against South Fort Myers tonight with a berth to the state tournament on the line.
Not only did Lukas get smarter on the field, but in the classroom as well where she raised her unweighted grade point average to 3.89. That earned her a spot on the 2012 National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s High School Girls Scholar All-America team. Athletes that are able to play at a high-level and maintain a 3.5 G.P.A. throughout their careers are eligible.
She will accept the award in Indianapolis on Saturday.
“Once I realized what a great honor it was, I was ecstatic,” said Lukas, who has verbally committed to Georgia Southern. ” I was so excited. It kind of made me realize that all my hard work for soccer had finally paid off.”
Accomplishing all of this could get to one’s head, but not Melinda’s.
“My parents raised me to appreciate what you have, but don’t take anything for granted,” she said. “Everything happens for a reason.”