Minneapolis Washburn senior Darley Florvil grew up playing street soccer while barefoot in his native Haiti.
On good days there was an actual soccer ball. Other days, a tennis ball would suffice. Sometimes, a plastic water bottle was all the neighborhood kids had.
"It was pretty poor," Florvil said. "But we loved soccer there. Everyday you'd see 30 kids playing street soccer."
The passion followed Florvil to the Twin Cities. He arrived at Washburn as a freshman and quickly took his place among the state's top forwards.
Always a strong finisher, Florvil expanded his playmaking abilities this season.
As a result, Florvil, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, leads the Millers into the Class 2A state tournament with 24 goals and 10 assists.
Washburn began the season with four new starters and a rebuilt defense. The veteran Florvil encouraged them to "be passionate about what you're doing. When you step on the field, play with intensity. Those things will put you on the next level."
Good teammates help, too. Washburn midfielder Jameson Charles was a soccer teammate of Florvil in Haiti. The two came to the United States through the Tony Sanneh Foundation, an organization founded by the St. Paul native and former Major League Soccer player to help empower at-risk children through soccer.
This season Charles has 28 assists, many of them feeding Florvil's goals.
"He's such an amazing soccer player," Florvil said. "We have that connection. I can tell when he's trying to pass and where he wants me to go."
Washburn coach Aaron Percy advised Florvil around midseason to look for open teammates more often. Florvil responded with six assists over the next five games.
Some of what makes Florvil a top soccer player draws from his modest roots.
"Being able to control the tennis ball — and I used to juggle with a tennis ball — I feel like it gives me more control of an actual soccer ball," he said.