A COVID-19 pandemic, face masks in the field, cancelled games at the start of the season – it has been a strange and stressful 2020 high school athletic season.
But the Riverview soccer team has let none of that affect it’s focus.
The Bucs won their first 13 games of the season, including a 2-1 win over Huron League archrival and defending Division 3 state champion Grosse Ile.
In the win over Grosse Ile, the Bucs trailed 1-0 at halftime but rallied to win. Jacob Bias tied the game with a goal early in the second half and Salvador DeLa Torre won it with a goal in the final minute.
The Huron League loss was Grosse Ile’s first in 69 games. Prior to this game, the last team to beat Grosse Ile was Riverview back in September of 2015.
The win over Grosse Ile was no fluke, as the senior-dominated Bucs have played several tough teams this year and beaten them all.
In addition to Grosse Ile, Coach Ben Zolynsky’s team has knocked off Monroe, Allen Park, Trenton, Huron and Woodhaven. In all, the Bucs have scored five or more goals eight times and have shut out six opponents.
“We knew we had a good team coming into the season,” Zolynsky said. “We knew the talent level because some of these guys have been starting since they were freshmen. They took some lumps back then, but it is paying off now.”
The team leaders are seniors Gustavo Sotto, Salvador DeLa Torre and Andrew Ray.
Zolynsky said all three are, “special, special players.”
Soto and DeLa Torre have accounted for 30 goals in 13 games and nearly half that number of assists. Ray is a center back, who controls the tempo and flow of the game.
“Soto is a workhorse,” Zolynski said. “He is so technical, so steady. He will be a college player. I don’t know where he is going to play, but several schools are looking at him.”
Ray earned praise, too.
“He makes everything happen,” Zolynsky said. “He may be the most athletic player I have ever coached and his soccer skills are sky high.”
The seniors make the team go, but the talented underclassmen push them and are likely the reason this has been a special season for Riverview.
“Our depth is insane,” Zolynsky said. “We have 23 guys on the roster and we played 20 against Grosse Ile and 21 against Woodhaven. It’s not exactly like hockey, but what we do is similar to line changes. The kids have bought into the subbing thing and so we always have fresh legs in the game.”
Zolynsky said the Bucs have also benefited from the three assistant coaches, all three former Riverview players. They are Hermes Tolstyka, Riverview’s single-season scoring record holder with 49 goals, Nonda Mehas and Dan Gonzalez.
“They have brought such a work ethic to the team and they are college players, so we can throw them on the field at practice and bring the level of play way up,” said Zolynsky.
Riverview will try to wrap up an unbeaten regular season and a Huron League championship and then get ready for the Michigan High School Athletic association state playoffs. The Bucs will begin the tournament this year in a district hosted by New Boston Huron.
Other teams in the district are Huron, Trenton, Southgate, Carlson and Airport. The Bucs will play the winner of the Southgate-Trenton game at 5 p.m. at Huron on Oct. 19.