SPOTLIGHT | RIVER BLUFF SOCCER

Tradition begins for rookie River Bluff boys soccer team

ainelson@thestate.comApril 3, 2014 

Led by renowned coach Phil Savitz, River Bluff High is rated No. 1 in 3A boys soccer in its first campaign. They are preparing for the playoffs. Here, Savitz instructs his team during practice.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

No one would blame River Bluff boys soccer for setting a low bar for the program’s first year.

Developing a strong, competitive program can take several seasons, and early success is often not judged in wins and losses.

However, with renowned coach Phil Savitz at the helm and a crew of mostly experienced players, the Gators’ program is off to a tremendous start – 9-1 and ranked No. 1 in the SCHSSCA Class 3A poll – because they refused to see themselves as a start-up.

Savitz, who has 14 championships, set the same expectations for the new program as he had in his 33 years at Irmo.

“The goal as individual soccer players and as a team is to get better every day, to do something every day to improve,” Savitz said.

That approach, he said, is what has propelled the young Gators. It also is why River Bluff will remain triumphant after the sheen of newness wears off.

“We are new program, but coach is always telling us to just think of ourselves as just another team that needs to get better every night we play,” said Gator John Alldinger, who played at Lexington last year.

As River Bluff has already enjoyed success on the field, the players and staff are relishing the special experience of being the first Gators.

“We’re just enjoying the journey so far. Everything is new to us,” Savitz said.

Building chemistry and establishing tradition is a challenge and a privilege, said junior Gian Ortega, another player reassigned from Lexington.

“It’s really great, because we get to create our own traditions. But there is some pressure, because we also are setting all the goals for the teams that come after us,” he said. “I was really excited to be a part of this team, because it’s always good to be part of something new.”

Planning to be the foundation for many seasons of pride and accomplishment, the Gators are not much concerned with what their rankings are this week.

Top-rated or not, senior Christian Deany noted, the Gators know they have a long way to go.

“When it comes close to the postseason, we’ll really be able to see what kind of team we are,” said Deany, an Illinois transplant who is becoming a leader for the Gators.

Although the team cannot get too excited about its status at the top of the polls, coach Savitz said, it is helping to create an enthusiastic atmosphere.

“We know that these preseason and early season rankings are for the fans, and it stirs up excitement about the program. It’s great that people are taking notice of a new program,” Savitz said.

The Gators’ attention-getting performance has ensured that River Bluff soccer will not go unnoticed, not even in its first season.

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