The Riverview High girls soccer team (4-0-2) poured nine goals on Manatee High (0-9) by halftime on Tuesday night, ending the game via mercy rule and sending their fans home early and happy. The win kept the Rams' record unsullied by a loss through six games.
The Hurricanes' defense did not have any answers for the Riverview attack, which got goals from six players, led by sophomore Rachel Paule, who had a hat trick (three goals) and two assists. Freshman Olivia Shkorupa had two goals, while junior Juliana Epes, junior Majestic Van Ingen and sophomore Bailey Springman had one each.
"Our communication has been good," Paule said. "That's important. It has helped us improve."
Manatee was not the toughest test the Rams have faced this season, and the Rams' postgame mood was happy yet controlled. If Tuesday night proved anything, it is that Riverview has the firepower punish teams beneath them — but it still has a lot to prove in the games ahead, including a Friday matchup with Sarasota High (4-4-1) and a looming Jan. 17 match against typical district powerhouse Lakewood Ranch High (7-0-1).
In year two under coach Joe St. Onge, the Rams have surged to a good start. Last season, Riverview finished 9-8-2, but steadily improved, finishing 5-2-0 over the last seven games.
"A lot of teams that we tied or lost to in the beginning of the year, we fared better against them in the end."
There's no better example of that then the team's results against North Port High. The Rams started 2021-2022 by losing 7-0 to the Bobcats. When they finally met again, it was in the district tournament — and Riverview downed them 3-1.
If that progression holds in 2022-2023, the Rams are a team to be feared. With 13 players returning from last year's team, St. Onge said, the team's on-field chemistry came together quicker than he expected. Also helping that area is all the off-field activities the Rams do together — movie nights or pizza parties, typically — to take away some of the stress of the season. St. Onge said he gives all his Instagram posts about the program the hashtag of "#RamFam," as he sees the team as its own family.
"Even a game like this (against Manatee), you see the unselfishness," St. Onge said. "Players could have taken advantage and padded their own stats, but they chose to make unselfish plays and lay balls off to other girls for scores."
All the chemistry in the world would mean little if Riverview did not have the talent to take advantage of it, but they do. After her hat trick, Paule leads the team with five goals, but 10 Rams have at least one goal through six games. St. Onge said after the Rams played Gulf Coast High on Nov. 29, a 3-1 Rams win, he received a text from the Sharks' coach relaying what the Sharks defenders thought of the Rams attack: it was relentless. That word sent St. Onge's heart soaring, he said. It's how he wants his team to play, to never give other teams a chance to catch their breath.
It was how the Rams themselves felt when facing Venice High in the district tournament last year; their season ended with a 3-0 loss. It was a learning experience, St. Onge said. Already, the team has improved on that result; the Rams tied Venice 2-2 in their season opener. The two teams will possibly meet again in this year's district tournament. St. Onge suspects his team will be ready.
"We're playing for January and February (the postseason)," St. Onge said. "My mantra has always been, 'Have fun and get better.' That's all we're trying to do."
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.