Athlete of the Year: MB’s Arambula leaves local mark

Myrtle Beach High graduate Ryan Aarambula grew up playing soccer on the Grand Strand, and he’s seen it come a long way in his 18 years.

Local soccer also carried him a long way too – to a soccer scholarship to the University of South Carolina, where he is already on campus and working out with the Gamecocks.

“It’s a lot different in college. The game’s a lot faster and all the players are great,” said Arambula, the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Year for boys soccer. “It really is the difference between playing against men and boys.”

Arambula is sure to adjust the pace the same way he set it while playing high school and club soccer in Myrtle Beach. With few advanced soccer teams in the area when he was young, Arambula has seen Strand soccer close the gap on the rest of the state and nation.

“Soccer was never very big there when I was a kid,” Arambula recalled. “Most of the kids played football, baseball and basketball, and it was hard to find a soccer field where you could get a pick-up game going.”

Arambula did what he had to do to draw the attention of college recruiters. He joined the South Carolina United Battery’s Developmental Team, which traveled the Southeast and brought exposure by playing against some of the nation’s best.

But he also made his mark on the local scene, helping establish Myrtle Beach as a state power during his tenure with the team. The Seahawks advanced to the Class AAA state title game in 2011 and was ranked No. 1 for much of 2012 before being upset in the third round of the playoffs.

“I really would have liked to have gone farther this year, but going to the state my junior year was probably my fondest memory,” Arambula said. “We felt like we should have won it but for us to get that far was a big accomplishment.”

Another top memory was the Seahawks’ sweep of archrival Socastee in his senior year, winning all three games by a 2-1 score. Two came by shootout, including a head-to-head showdown in the Airport Invitational championship game, but the third match was the charm.

Trailing 1-0 in the second half, Arambula assisted on the tying goal, then booted the game-winner on a penalty kick in the final minutes for another 2-1 victory. The win established Myrtle Beach as the top team on the Strand, and Arambula as the top player.

The two-time Region VIII-AAA Player of the Year closed his senior year with 13 goals and 12 assists, down from his junior year numbers but impressive in that he was able to get teammates more involved in the offense.

So it was no big surprise when he became one of the few local products recruited by a major program, especially one as established as South Carolina. Now Big things are expected from the 5-foot-6, 135-pound freshman, who could open doors for other Strand soccer players in the future.

“I know there’s a lot of pressure on me to do well but I put a lot of that pressure on myself,” Arambula said. “I just want to work hard and do my best to help my new team and make everybody back home proud.”

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