Boys’ soccer reaches first playoffs since 1999

When the Wolverine boys’ soccer team faces Highland Saturday at 3 p.m., they can finally rejoice.

After suffering through criticism and injury woes at the beginning of the season, the squad  changed their fortunes. They rattled off seven straight victories and renewed their rivalry with Loyola, finding themselves in a derby that had playoff implications.

And with one thumping header, Ryan Calvert ’07 nodded the Wolverine boys’ soccer team to a 1-0 upset over Loyola, the first in school history, and subsequently capped off their playoff charge, securing their first berth since the 1997 season.

Calvert’s goal, the product of a Zack Mirman ’07 free kick from the touchline, sent the fellow players and fans alike into rapture.

“It was inexplicable,” Mirman said. “Getting the first goal on Loyola at home, and on such a legit goal, actually having soccer fans at home in the stands and people really cheering for you., it was really a high point, maybe the high point of the year.”

After safeguarding their one goal advantage, the team rejoiced after a physical and emotional struggle.

“For me, personally, it was incredible.  I was sobbing.  I broke down in tears after the game,” Mirman said.

As Coach Freddy Arroyo’s team had finally realized their goal of making playoffs, he broke into the locker room with a bottle of sparkling cider to the chant of “Playoffs.”

Following the win over Loyola, the team hit a small rut in the form of a 4-0 loss to St. Francis on their senior night, but followed that up with a 2-0 win over Alemany to close out the year.

Despite these two performances, the team’s playoff position was not compromised.

“What Arroyo said to us [last week] was that the week coming up is the most important week of practice that we’ll ever have,” Mirman said.  “We just have to work hard and prepare well for playoffs because it will be a huge game.”

He and his teammates believe that more than a shot at glory, playoffs represent a time to validate the team’s call for elevated respect from the school.

“I think people are now starting to understand that this year was always going to be a good year,” Mirman said.

“It hasn’t really been lucky or surprising.  This is by far, by far, by far the most team unity and the closest knit group we’ve ever had in four years.”

He also noted that the team’s criticism was largely the product of onlookers hastily judging the team before they were at full strength.

“The only reason why we had criticism at the beginning was because we were missing our football players.  After those first five games, surely our critics were silenced a little bit.”

And this tight group, a possible Cinderella in this year’s CIF field, vows not to let their fans down.
“I think we are going to play well,” Mirman said. “We definitely will not come out flat.”

Even if the team does indeed play well, though, and gets by their first round matchup at Highland, they could face Royal in the second round, one of the best teams in CIF.

As for what the players expect from today’s clash, Mirman can only offer that the team is excited to finally be in the postseason after missing out for so many years.