Mike Ryan's soccer career hasn't really changed much from the time he starred at Cherokee.

Back then, he played on the last possible day of the season for two years running, was a dominant scorer, and was honored for his accomplishments.

Ryan just completed his sophomore campaign at Rutgers-Camden and enjoyed more of the same during a season of unparalleled achievement for the Scarlet Raptors.

Ryan recently became the first player in school history to earn first-team all-American honors. He was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division III first team. (Ryan was a third-team choice as a freshman.)

The honor came after a 23-1-2 season in which Rutgers-Camden advanced to the NCAA Division III championship game. In that game, the Scarlet Raptors lost to Messiah, 2-1, in double overtime in San Antonio, Texas.

Ryan set a single-season school record with 22 goals. He added four assists for a single-season school mark of 48 points.

This followed a familiar pattern for Ryan, who was The Inquirer's South Jersey player of the year in 2011 after leading Cherokee to its second straight state Group 4 title. Ryan scored a single-season school-record 33 goals and ended with 64, the most in Cherokee history.

"He is the kind of player who obviously puts your program - and keeps your program - on the national map," said Rutgers-Camden's Tim Oswald, who was named the NSCAA's Division III coach of the year.

Imagine what would have happened had Ryan been totally healthy.

Early this season. Ryan suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee. He was told he would need surgery and he agreed to have it done - after the season.

Ryan played four games after suffering the injury and not getting it checked.

"I just thought it was regular soreness," he said.

The pain, though, became excruciating.

So Ryan took a cortisone shot, which helped tremendously. He had another before the final four in San Antonio.

In between, he kept scoring big goal after big goal.

Many days, the knee was too sore for him to practice, but Ryan persevered.

"I wanted to play through the pain," he said.

After the season, Ryan had surgery. He concedes that the injury hampered his play, although it was difficult to tell.

"Every game, I gave 100 percent effort, but I knew with the knee that I was doing things a little bit slower," Ryan said.

His goal-scoring pace didn't slow down.

He has the most desired skill in the sport: the ability to break down defenders one-on-one.

Ryan could play professionally on some level when his college days are over.

"I have thought about it sometimes," he said of pro soccer, "but I still have two years left and you never know what could happen."

Nobody does know, but a good guess is that Ryan will continue scoring and Rutgers-Camden will continue winning, especially with an expected healthy all-American returning next season.

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