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Aiming High - Bruin Soccer Pushing For Playoff Appearance
The defining moment in Riverbank High's 2010 soccer season came with one game to play in the Trans-Valley League schedule. Riverbank led Orestimba and Escalon by just half a game in the league standings, and both TVL programs won their Oct. 28 TVL finale to threaten the Bruins' postseason hopes.

But Riverbank claimed the third and final playoff seed from the TVL by blasting No. 2 seed Hughson for a 5-1 shellacking to close conference play at 6-6.

A week later Riverbank stunned the postseason field when they upset undefeated Mother Lode League champion Bret Harte (16-2-1 at the time) with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory. The Bruins ultimately fell to future Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion, Dixon, in the playoffs semi-final round.

Despite departures, Bruin coach Martin Gonzales has high hopes for another run into the D-V playoffs in 2011.

Riverbank is young and inexperienced in some positions, but talented returning players have Gonzales looking for big games this year.

"My expectations for the season are to take league and get to the section championship and win," Gonzales said. "Even though we have some injuries and we are rebuilding, I see great potential in this team and a sharpness that if we come together we will be very hard to beat.

"With every game we will be getting better and better."

Riverbank is 2-6 on the current season after a flurry of tough games against quality large school programs. They fell in a 4-0 score to top tier Division I Merced, and led Oakdale 2-0 until a disastrous second half resulted in a 3-2 Mustang win. Riverbank's first win came after a 5-3 victory over host Sonora on Aug. 30.

They also pushed past Gregori during tournament action on Saturday.

"Basically I put us up against solid Division I playoff teams, so when we come to league, we are ready," Gonzales said. "We are struggling against them right now, but as we get into league we should shape up and go into TVL games strong."

On offense, the team returns a big weapon in speedy outside midfielder Kenny Veliz (junior). Senior Jonathan Solano scored one of five goals during the TVL finale against Hughson, and also returns to the Bruin lineup as a center forward.

Riverbank's defense returns a lot of talent, including Jose Vigil (senior), Eric Hernandez (senior), Daniel Ramos (senior), Mauricio Rosales (senior) Ruben Lopez (junior) and midfielder Christian Contreras (senior). Junior goalkeeper Rafael Ramirez made eight big saves during the win over Hughson, and returns to dominate the TVL net as well.

The big additions to Riverbank's roster are freshman center forward Rodrigo Quintero, junior outside midfielder Armando Rodriquez, sophomore forward/defender Martin Pantoja, sophomore midfielder/forward Noe Garcia and junior forward/defender Alex Navarro.

Coach Gonzales (in his 10th season) said though grades have battered the roster in recent years, he has a group of around nine players with a 3.5 or better grade-point-average.