Marcelo Malpartida faced a big dilemma early in his soccer career at River Bluff.
As a freshman, Malpartida had the choice of playing in elite soccer academy in South Carolina or with River Bluff, which was in its first year as a school in 2013. If he chose to play with the academy, he wouldn’t be able to play on his high school team.
Malpartida chose River Bluff, and the decision has paid off for both parties three years later. The junior had a breakout season in helping to the Gators to their first state championship and No. 3 ranking in the USA Today/NSCAA Soccer Poll.
“It was tough on kids. Do you go to the perceived highest level or represent your high school?” River Bluff coach Phil Savitz said. “We had a talk with his family and he didn’t want to miss out on playing for his school. Every time I hear them talk about it, they say it is the best decision, and we are glad to have them.”
Malpartida made a name for himself this season and reaped some of the individual awards for his efforts. He was the South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year, a first-team selection on the All-USA Boys Soccer teams picked by USA Today High School Sports and also was named The State’s Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year.
“It was an unforgettable season for us as a team, not just for myself,” Malpartida said. “We are very happy for two years after starting the program to win a state championship, which we worked hard for since day one.
“We are happy as a team and coach Savitz especially to get him his 700th win. It is an unforgettable feeling from the memories we made from winning the state championships and the experiences.”
The midfielder scored just one goal, the game-winner in 1-0 victory over Wando in the Lower State semifinals, but led the team with 25 assists.
“This year I wasn’t able to score much, obviously, but if you can’t score than you have to find another to have an impact with the team, whether it is defending, assisting or whatever you need,” Malpartida said. “I just take pride in doing whatever it takes.”
Savitz said Malpartida has a team-first mentality, and the rising senior doesn’t bring up the accolades and honors he’s received. The veteran coach said Malpartida’s work ethic and vision are what separates him from other players.
“He can make every pass to be made on the field. His field vision is amazing,” Savitz said. “He is a very humble player and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to making him the player he has become.”
Malpartida committed to College of Charleston despite some of the bigger schools showing interest in him. He also has a dream of playing for his home country, Peru, in the future.
Malpartida’s parents are from Peru and moved to South Carolina when he was 3 years old. His father, Luigi, introduced him to the game and was his first coach.
Marcelo holds his home country in high regard and draped the Peru flag over him as he celebrated the Gators’ state championship victory over Clover. Malpartida returned to Peru last summer for the first time after an invitation to train with the country’s sub-20 national team.
Malpartida, who was the youngest player in camp, ate, trained and took part in a scrimmage in the week-long camp.
“It was a great experience for me and my family down there,” Malpartida said.