Ivan Martinez, The Athlete Behind Rye Neck’s Soccer Renaissance

Ever since he first suited up in black, blue, and white as a member of the Rye Neck boys’ soccer team, Ivan Martinez has been a human highlight reel for the varsity squad.

In 2008, as a freshman, Martinez led the Panthers in scoring and netted the game-winning overtime goal in the Section quarterfinals that propelled the scrappy underdogs all the way to the finals. Martinez overcame a bout with mononucleosis to return late in his sophomore season, giving Rye Neck the push they needed to win their first Section title in 10 years. In the opening round of the State tournament, Martinez – mired in heavy traffic – dished the assist that put the Panthers in the Regional final.

Ivan Martinez

Now a junior, Martinez has the reigning Section champions back in the playoffs, hungry to defend their title and return to States.

“When I had mono last year, it was tough to watch my team from the sideline, knowing they could use some help,” said Martinez. “However, the most important thing was getting healthy so I could return to the playing field and assist in any way possible. Coming back from that to win the Section was great. Although we lost in the Regional final, it was still a great experience that meant so much to me.”

Martinez led the Section in points as recently as October 19, but finished second with 22 goals and four assists. It was a proud accomplishment for Martinez, who plays soccer year round with the FC Westchester U16 Academy team. The junior gave credit to his family for their support – they come to every game – and singled out his father as the person he looks up to most and the one responsible for his success on the pitch and in life.

“Ivan’s entry into the varsity program couldn’t have been better timed,” said Frank Gizzo, who shares head coach responsibilities with Bryan Iacovelli. “The team was progressing with a good core of returning veteran players, which gave him a good foundation to develop. Since his freshman year he has added an exciting and dynamic style to the team, but it’s his professionalism that is his inherent standout quality. He displays a tremendous amount of respect for his community, teammates, opponents, and officials.”

Although Martinez points to the Section title run as the highlight of his Rye Neck career, he was quick to recall a pair of exciting wins against Keio Academy this season. In the first meeting, the diminutive forward scored with one minute left in regulation to send it to overtime. He then connected for the game-winner with two minutes left in the first half of overtime. Martinez registered a hat trick in Rye Neck’s 5-2 win over Keio later in the season. He said the twin victories boosted the team’s confidence to new levels.

Martinez isn’t just a force on the field; he is globally aware and partners with teammate David Mendoza-Conner to give back through Amigos de Futbol. The two were able to collect a substantial amount of soccer equipment last year, which was then shipped to South America. Given his Paraguayan heritage, it’s a cause close to Martinez’s heart.

“It means a great deal to me to be able to help those who are less fortunate. I know I definitely don’t take things for granted, and being able to help children in South America who have nothing to play with inspires me to be a better person. David and I are planning to re-start the program after the soccer season ends.”

Martinez plans on playing soccer at college, but wants to make sure the school he selects is also known for its academics. For now, however, the pint-sized powerhouse wants to lead his team back to the promised land.

“We have to play well because nothing will be given to us,” said Martinez, who was part of the gold medal-winning Hudson Valley team at the Empire State Games this summer. “If we all put in the same effort, sacrifice, and heart, we’ll be a very hard team to beat in Sectionals. We know what it takes to be successful, now we just have to go prove it on the field.”


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