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Rocky Meets Cinderella
(Ann Arbor) January 21, 2014 – What do you get when you throw in two parts “Rocky”, one part “Cinderella” and add a generous helping of lax passion? You get Maryland native, Bobby Riso, who for the past three years was the Michigan Club goalie. Now he’s on the Varsity roster.
Because of a season ending injury to Gerald Logan and the loss of Dylan Westerhold to academic issues, the coaching staff needed additional depth at the toughest position in the game.
Enter Bobby Riso.
Riso explains how he got the call, “I played club my freshman year and tried out my sophomore year, but ended up on the club team. I tried out my junior year. I didn’t play club because of my broken hand, but Coach Paul said that if they needed a goalie, they would call me first. That meant a lot to me.
He was true to his word. They reached out to me over winter break – I was out of the country in Israel and my sister checked my voice mail and got a hold of their assistant coach to let him know I was interested and set up a meeting with Coach Paul.”
The meeting was arranged to go over schedules and NCAA compliance issues. Naturally, Riso was a bit nervous going into the sit-down, “I was in disbelief. I still didn’t think it was real. I thought it was a dream and I had no idea what he was going to say. But he had talked to other players – former varsity guys and current varsity guys and they thought I would be a great addition to the team. They had respect for me and were excited to bring me on. The NCAA issues worked out and I had a great feeling when I left. It was going to happen.”
Riso had been working out with the Club team and assisting the goalies at Ann Arbor Greenhills School in the fall and was in pretty good shape. His remained passionate about the game and tried to improve his skills each year. “My conditioning test my junior year went well and my talent level was pretty good. So, I was competitive. I had something to play for – helping the club team compete for a championship and try to make the Italian national team. I was motivated. I played in tournaments and three other leagues every summer. So I had goals and kept pushing myself to get better. I’ve been able to keep getting better as college went on.”
Now that he is on the team, Riso’s next step is to ramp up his skills and help the Wolverines improve. “The guys on this team are the best guys I’ve played against. I need to get up to their speed. They brought me on to fill a roster spot and help back up the other goalies. My goal is to be there when they need me, try to be the best I can in practice and be the best team mate I can be during games. Over the next few weeks, I have to bring my skill level up to the other goalies the best that I can.”
Bobby doesn’t expect to play much, but his goal is to be ready if called. “If it happens (playing in a regular season game), I would be very excited. I’m expecting to see time against Marquette and Denison because they are exhibitions. But Coach Paul was up front with me, they are confident with the current goalie situation - so I knew that going in but I have to be ready if they need me.”
One of the dreams of any University of Michigan student would be to walk on the field at Michigan Stadium, “The Big House”, as an athlete. Playing a sport that you love in front of 5,000 or 100,000 fans would be a thrill of a lifetime. Riso agrees, “It just hit me yesterday. I’m going to be able to walk inside the Big House as a player not just as a fan like I have the last three and a half years. I have no idea what it will feel like – it will be eased knowing that there won’t be 110,000 fans but even with the 5,000 or 6,000 fans it will be unbelievable.”
As he works through this memorable senior year, Riso will soak it all in and reflect on the how far he has come in lacrosse, “I really could not have imagined this four years back. I switched from middie to goalie between my junior and senior year of high school and I had such a good team in front of me in high school I never needed to be relied on to make that huge save. My defense was very good. I made the saves that I needed to but they made it easy. But I got better each year and I had a lot of confidence my sophomore year of college and my biggest dream was taking a club championship. But being able to walk on to this team – it’s amazing. The first thing I did was e-mail my High School coaches - they were so happy for me. I’ve gotten a lot of support.”
Riso is living proof that if you love lacrosse or anything for that matter, you need to keep trying, keep improving and stay true to your goals. Dreams REALLY do come true.
Michigan hosts Marquette and Denison on February 1 at Oosterbaan Fieldhouse. Games begin at 1:00pm.
This article ran in January of 2014. It remains one of my favorite lacrosse stories of all-time. Bobby and I still keep in touch.
Hope this gives you a smile during this Covid-19 pandemic. We will all play again!
Riso on the field - Michigan vs. Yale
April 2014 at Michigan Stadium.