How Lexi Pelafas became Central Michigan's goal leader
It doesn’t matter what level of soccer Central Michigan forward Lexi Pelafas plays at, her ability to score is well-documented.
The owner of the Lansing United women’s soccer team, Jeremy Sampson, would be the first to tell you that.
“She’s a stone-cold killer,” Sampson said. “When she gets the ball in the box, she is going to score.”
Pelafas is the leading goal scorer in CMU women’s soccer history with 39 goals to date. Behind her in second place is Stephanie Martin (2006-2009) with 26 goals. Pelafas also leads the program in total points with 87.
Statistically, she’s one of the best soccer players to ever set foot on campus. She’s still playing out her senior season with personal expectations.
While the work she’s put in at CMU made her better, playing for other teams in the summer between seasons with the Chippewas has also improved her game.
“There’s just a different speed to the ball and things are more crisp and smooth," Pelafas said. "It’s going to be more physical."
In 2016 and 2017, the Wheaton, Illinois native played with the Chicago Red Stars, a team in the National Women’s Soccer League.
Her Chicago teammate, Abbie Boswell, has played soccer with Pelafas since the eighth grade.
Boswell, who plays collegiate soccer at Alabama, isn’t surprised Pelafas has been able to accomplish so much at CMU. Boswell described Pelafas' attacking prowess as unpredictable.
Whether it’s on the ball, getting it out of the air or attacking on offense, Boswell thinks Pelafas is one of the best.
“I feel like defenders never know what she is going to do next,” Boswell said. “She goes at the ball with confidence and is desperate to score, which is what makes her so good.
This past summer, Pelafas made the switch to play for the Lansing United, a semipro team in its first season as a organization -- a team which plays in the United Women's Soccer League.
In 10 games with Lansing, she netted seven goals, two assists and 16 total points. She helped the team to the league title game, in which Lansing was defeated 4-2 by the Grand Rapids Football Club.
Sampson said Pelafas is more than just a goal-scorer. While the team was training twice a week and playing in competitive games, Pelafas never changed her attitude.
“We weren’t overloading them with work five days a week, but I think Lexi would play that much if she could”, Sampson said. “You can’t have enough people like (Pelafas) on your team. She’s lethal and it’s clear she has worked very hard in her development.”
For CMU this season, she’s scored six goals, tallied four assists and 16 points in 14 games — leading the team in goals and points. This isn’t new territory. She broke the single-season goal record in 2016 with 16 goals. Even as a freshman, her four goals led the team.
For head coach Peter McGahey, a lot of it relates back to the summers Pelafas has been able to grow and become stronger in many different areas.
“It has always been important to Lexi to continue to grow her game in the summer,” McGahey said. “She doesn’t like not playing. She’s always been driven to find a place to play and grow her craft and so far it’s worked out for her.”
All of the goal records and numbers Pelafas has broken at CMU relates to how tenacious and willing she is to score on offense in a way that makes her unique according to McGahey.
Her ability to run behind defenses and get defenders on their back foot makes her special physically. Mentally, she is even more powerful.
“Her ability to have a short memory like good strikers have, essentially already thinking about how she is going to score the next goal, is special,” McGahey said. “She wants CMU Soccer to be a part of her development, but she doesn’t want her playing days to end her.”
When Pelafas takes the field for the Chippewas, she doesn’t think about her name hanging in the rafters after graduation. She doesn’t think about how many goals she will put up this season.
She plays in the moment and wants to be remembered as the teammate she was. One that never stopped working, regardless of the season.
“I want people to think about my energy and giving it my all 100 percent of the time,” Pelafas said. “Someone who brought joy to the game everyday and was there for people.”