Nayeli Gallo is on a goal-scoring tear
Nayeli Gallo and her sister, Dora, used to sneak out of the house, kind of.
They didn't do it at night, and they didn't leave. When the Gallo sisters were still young children, they got out of bed about 5 a.m. and went to the backyard.
That was their practice time.
"My mom would get mad at us for playing so early in the morning," Nayeli said.
In part, that paid off for Dora. She now plays soccer at Kansas State. Nayeli may be on her way to the collegiate level, too, North coach Curt Wullschleger said.
Nayeli has 19 goals and nine assists this season, the most points of any player in the City League or AVCTL. She has played in eight games, averaging the second most points per game in the area.
She scored four goals with three assists against Southeast on Thursday. That was her third four-goal game this season.
Nayeli didn't start playing competitively until she was 7. Dora spent years training her, improving her footwork and soccer intelligence. So when Dora felt her sister was ready, the game came easily, Nayeli said.
But early in her high school career, there were struggles. For Nayeli, this season is one of "finally."
The sisters played together for one year at North. They were fantastic, Wullschleger said. As a freshman, Nayeli scored a team-high 26 goals. She and Dora were both chosen to the City League first team, and North finished 11-7.
"It was like stuff they were doing in the backyard sometimes," Wullschleger said.
But during the 2016 regional tournament, Nayeli she was concussed. She said it was the worst possible time.
Soon after the high school season ended, she suffered another concussion during her club season and needed physical therapy.
Nayeli leaned on her sister. Even when she was healthy, she talked with Dora every day, but when she was injured, some days were harder than others.
"I would cry because I wanted to play so bad," Nayeli said.
Dora was there. The Gallo family grew up on soccer. At family reunions, the sisters grabbed their uncles and cousins and made pickup games in the yard.
So when Nayeli's future on the soccer field was in danger, Dora tried to remind her of what was going to get her through.
"Her love of the game is so strong," Dora said. "But I think it was good for her to watch from the sidelines so she could learn from it and be patient and become a better leader."
Much of the comeback was more mental than physical, Nayeli said.
She struggled getting back to doing things that became automatic for her. She said she almost shied away from the ball when she normally stepped into it. She didn't want the ball unless she was wide open.
Her therapist worked with her. He created situations on the pitch she would be faced with again and challenged her to make the plays. Slowly, the confidence came back.
She started looking like Dora.
"They both like to take people on," Wullschleger said. "They both have that Brazilian-type soul."
That was on display Thursday. Early in the first half, Nayeli took a Southeast defender to the corner, spun and rolled the ball through her defender's legs.
Then last year, Nayeli quit the team after three games and 11 goals to train exclusively with her then-club team, FC Union. She said coming back was one of her best decisions.
"I regret quitting, so much," she said. "It was a huge mistake. Now that I'm representing my school, everyone in the hallways says, 'Good luck today.' My friends always come to support me.
"The feeling you get, especially at pep assemblies being on the stage and hearing your name, I feel like I have to. I feel like I'm part of it."
This year's North team (4-5) is still finding its path. The Redskins have gone through tough losses to Goddard and East, but there are still some strong connections.
Nayeli said she misses playing with Dora, but she and midfielder Irai Fernandez have been playing with each other since they were 10, and they lead North in points this season.
"It's been a challenge," Nayeli said. "I miss her, but I know we are all having success now."