When University soccer senior Aaliyah Perez dented the net for her 100th career high school goal last week, she knew Mike Chapman was watching.

Chapman, the longtime patriarch of University’s girls and boys soccer programs, died of a heart attack on Jan. 14. His teams have continued to carry on, dedicating their seasons to a coach who was renowned as much for his kindhearted spirit and volunteerism as he was his success.

So when Perez netted her fifth goal of a 10-2 win over Corsicana last Friday at Waco ISD Stadium, giving her 100 for her high school career, Chapman was on everyone’s minds.

“Chapman was very close to us, not just as a coach but as a friend,” said University interim head coach Ricky Perez, Aaliyah’s father. “He baptized my son, he baptized my other daughter. He’s been a best friend, a father figure, basically a second dad to my family.”

Making Aaliyah’s milestone all the more impressive is that she reached the 100-goal mark in three seasons. She booted a total of 65 goals in her freshman and sophomore seasons in 2017 and ’18, but then missed all of her junior season last year with a torn ACL in her knee.

Fortunately for University (8-8-2, 4-6-1), she has come back reenergized this year. Perez is up to 37 goals on the season, including two more in a 3-2 loss to Red Oak on Tuesday, pushing her career mark up to 102.

“Aaliyah knows she couldn’t be there without her teammates,” Ricky Perez said. “They make a big difference, and give her good passes that give her the chance to execute.”

The Lady Trojans sit in fifth place in the District 14-5A soccer standings with one game to go, but still hold out hope for a playoff spot. After Spring Break, they’ll host Cleburne in a Senior Night match on March 17. They need Cleburne to lose to Red Oak (14-3-3, 8-1-1) this Friday and then they’ll need to beat Cleburne in that regular-season finale to force a district tiebreaker match for fourth.

Meanwhile, University’s boys lead the 14-5A standings with a 7-2-2 record, with only that March 17 match against Cleburne remaining.

“It’s been unbelievable to see the kids do what they’ve done,” Ricky Perez said. “The tragedy with Coach Chapman happened the week before district, and the guys said they were going to do it for Coach Chapman after that. That’s how we break it out at every practice, we yell, ‘Mike Chapman!’ He’s always with us.”

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