Why Sergio Rivas, who leads men’s soccer with four goals in three games, says he peaked in middle school

| Senior Sports Editor

Junior forward Sergio Rivas dribbles past a Greenville University defender in a 2019 game. (Photo by Grace Bruton | Student Life)

Men’s soccer player Sergio Rivas came to Washington University as an attacker, but during his first season on the team, he only played defense. Now though, the junior has moved up the field to play forward, and he’s been unstoppable. In three games so far this season, he has scored four goals and had one assist. Rivas may be a machine on the field, but off the soccer pitch, he is an economics major who will never turn down a game of chess. Student Life sat down with the junior to learn about his soccer background, his biggest supporter, and his thoughts on “Donda.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

Student Life: Talk to me first about your first memory of you with the soccer ball. How long have you been playing?

Sergio Rivas: Probably since I was four. I was actually born in Mexico, and my dad was a huge soccer guy. So we would play literally in the living room. We cleared out all the space and just played off the wall. We’d tape up the wall and make goals, and just played in the living room all day. I remember actually, the first time my parents were like, “Alright, you gotta stop playing in the house,” and I didn’t want to because maybe I was shy or something. But they made me sign up for it, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. 

SL: You said your dad is a big soccer fan — does he come to your games and watch you play now? 

SR: We’re from Minnesota, so he’s usually not able to come down to watch, but he watches the live feeds and texts me after the games. If I do well, he’ll say “Oh, good job,” or if I don’t do well, he’ll say, “Oh, why don’t you do this?” He’s super supportive, and I’m sure [if] he could, [he would] be at every game.  

SL: And do you listen to his advice? Or are you just like, ‘okay, dad, thanks for the support?’

SR: Definitely the latter. I tell him, ‘alright, if you know everything, why didn’t you play?’ No, but he’s definitely super supportive, and it’s definitely nice to have him. And actually, when he’s in the stands, like, he’ll be the loudest person, for better or worse.

SL: Amazing. Let’s talk about the current season. You’ve scored two goals in two games, which is as many as your entire freshmen year. What’s changed? 

SR: Well, first, my coach put me in a new position this year. My freshman year, I played mostly as a defender as a right back. Yeah. But now I’m playing more as an attacking winger. So I’m transitioning to a more attacking role and being able to take more shots. Over the summer, I’ve been practicing a lot, especially on the attacking side, so it’s definitely great to see it come to fruition in the game especially.

SL: Are there any matchups that you’re particularly excited for, or is it just kind of getting back out there finally after last year?

SR: Yeah, yeah. There’s definitely a few. So North Park we play this Saturday and they’re Final Four contenders for sure, so that’s gonna be a really good game. And then UChicago for us is always a big deal. I don’t think we’ve beat them in a while, so I think this year is gonna be a really good chance to do that, and it’s at home.  

SL: I’m excited for that game — it’ll be a chance to avenge football’s loss.  

SR: Yeah, exactly. Because we can’t let them win everything. 

SL:  The team wasn’t ranked on the United Soccer Coaches Top 25. Do you think that’s a fair assessment, or do you think that the team deserved to be up there, especially given that you had a pretty good few games last spring and have had a solid record so far this season? 

SR: Good question. Well, I think, like you mentioned, we played 18 guys last game. So I think we have an insanely deep and talented team, like probably the best since I’ve been here. I’m not too worried about rankings right now. I’m more worried about building chemistry, and then building momentum when we get into UAA play. I think that we’re one of the top teams and we can compete with anyone. But yeah, I think we definitely have the potential to be up there. And yeah, one of my goals is to make the tournament and win the conference. Our coach always talks about, you know, acting like the best program in the country, and I like to do what the best program in the country would do. So that’s what we’re building towards. 

SL: Good stuff. So I talked to one of your teammates the other day, and he said that you guys all pitched in for new speakers. If you’re on aux, what do you play?

SG: You don’t want me on aux because I’m an alt rock guy, and I don’t know if alt rock is best for pregame — it’s more for chill out sessions. But yeah, got to get the team more motivated, so maybe a little bit of Kanye. If it was up to me, I’d put on some rock, but I don’t think people would be too happy with that.

SL: Then I gotta ask: what are your thoughts on Donda? 

SG: My feelings are mixed a little bit — I don’t know. It’s cliche, but it’s not the same as it used to be.

SL: Outside of soccer, what do you get up to in your probably-limited free time? 

SG: I enjoy board games — I really got into that during quarantine. So, yeah, strategic-type games. I also really like chess.  

SL: Are you an online chess player? Or do you have WashU people that you can play with? 

SG: I try to play with WashU people. I feel like I get a little intimidated when I get online and it has timers. I know that’s kinda the whole point, but it’s just too much anxiety. I just want to relax, and pick things out.

SL: Definitely understandable. Last question — what’s one fun fact that your teammates might not know about you? 

SG: Hm. I tell them too much about myself, so they know too much. But my icebreaker that I did during preseason was that I won my middle school’s geography competition and I think I peaked there. 

See other athlete of the week features from the Student Life sports desk:

How men’s tennis player Scott Altmeyer balances his undefeated singles season and grad school

One junior describes a softball season of parking lot Subway sandwiches and seemingly endless rainouts

‘I’m gonna put all my time and effort into it’: Baseball’s Caleb Durbin talks wrestling, getting on Tim Van Kirk’s level and post-collegiate ball

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