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West Forsyth High School (Georgia) soccer phenom Tori DellaPeruta is fueled by a competitive spirit that has resulted in her coach drawing comparisons of her drive and determination to that of hoops icon Michael Jordan.
In May, the University of North Carolina-bound forward helped lead the Wolverines to a 19-2 record and the school's first Georgia High School Athletic Association Class 6A Girls Soccer state crown - notching the game-winning goal in the 1-0 title match versus Lambert High School.
Additionally, the United Soccer Coaches All-America selection added yet another accolade to her sterling resume by virtue of becoming the first winner of the USA TODAY High School Sports Awards Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
"Getting nominated, I was super thankful," said DellaPeruta, who scored 54 goals to pair with five assists. "After being nominated, I saw I was put up against opponents across the country, and I knew some of them. I definitely respected their play, so I wasn't really expecting to win. As I watched the show, to hear my name was amazing and breathtaking. I didn't expect it at all."
DellaPeruta continually seeks to be the best, and she models herself after another famous basketball player.
"It's about having goals, striving for them and being determined," she said. "I'm always wanting to get to the end and get what I've worked for. One of my role models is Kobe Bryant and his Mamba Mentality. When I face adversity, I know how to approach it."
West Forsyth High School Girls Soccer Head Coach Jason Galt said while the Wolverines were a solid team entering the season that eventually yielded the state championship, DellaPeruta joining the mix placed West Forsyth over the top.
"I call her the Michael Jordan of girls soccer," he said. "When she gets on that pitch, she's highly competitive and not your friend. She has a gift of seeing certain things, and I think the game slows down for Tori. I was a beneficiary of all of that work she's put in and her other coaches have put in. My job was to put all of the puzzle pieces together. It was a magical season."
DellaPeruta's sister, Talia DellaPeruta, is a sophomore on the University of North Carolina women's soccer team. Tori said Talia's attraction to the sport also helped her develop a love for the game.
"We're like best friends and are super close," Tori said of her sister. "I talk to her every day. She gives me all of the insights of the school, and it makes me more excited every day to go. She plays in an attacking role that favors my role as a forward. We always talk about the future at the school, and it's a really cool opportunity most people don't get a chance to experience. I'm very excited."
DellaPeruta, who will graduate in December and pursue opportunities to play soccer abroad before arriving at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, said competing in high school soccer for West Forsyth would serve as her fondest high school memory.
"I'll always remember the relationships established with my teammates and being able to accomplish something the school hadn't accomplished (state championship) - and having so much fun with it," she said. "Then there's the awesome fans, coaches and faculty. It was a great experience."
With regard to selecting the University of North Carolina as her choice to continue her academic and athletic pursuits, DellaPeruta said the Tar Heels check off all of the boxes.
"I'm going to major in exercise science and later become a sports physician assistant," she said. "They also have a great physical therapy academic program. UNC's coach (Anson Dorrance) is outstanding. He has this thing called the Competitive Cauldron, where every single day in practice, you're ranked based on every drill you do."
DellaPeruta said at the end of the week, players are evaluated in consideration of each exercise.
"Based on your average, it determines who is going to be starting in the games or who is not going to be playing," she said. "You're competing for a spot to play."
Galt said he envisions DellaPeruta competing on the global stage.
"I fully expect to see her playing for a World Cup for the United States," he said. "I look forward to watching her at UNC, and that competitive atmosphere is perfect for her."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DellaPeruta helped West Forsyth High School to a state soccer crown