By Alex Leichenger and Jack Davis
What was arguably the most successful season in boysâ soccer team history was clouded by controversy in a CIF Finals loss March 6. Fiery emotions translated into what CIF determined to be unsportsmanlike conduct by Wolverine players toward referees.
CIF officials approached Athletic Director Terry Elledge, who was on the sidelines with the team, to inform him of complaints regarding players on the Wolverinesâ bench. When Elledge passed on CIFâs request to tone down criticism of officials to players on the bench, tensions escalated.
“Iâm not going to side with anyone in this situation, because I think that it was unfortunate that two sides both representing our school had to have a fight,” starting goalie Alex Silverman â10 said. “My only regret about it is that the guys on the field didnât deserve to go through that…And you know there was so much positive to take out of the game that it was like a couple of peopleâs decision to make the game more about themselves.”
CIF Commissioner Jim Staunton spoke with Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra and Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas over the phone the following Monday, prompting a closed-door meeting between Salamandra, Barzdukas and the team that day after school.
“[Staunton] expressed deep concern with the conduct of our coach, players, and others on our bench,” Barzdukas said.
The school asked the team to write a letter of apology for their unsportsmanlike actions on the field to CIF.
The athletic department has prohibited the team from participating in overnight tournaments next season. No other sanctions have been meted out by CIF, and the team will not be forced to forfeit any games next season, Barzdukas said.
“There are lessons to be learned by everybody,” Barzdukas said. “We are thankful Mr. Staunton pointed out those lessons to us, and we will take them to heart.”
Even if the Wolverines won the game and the controversy did not occur, the team would not have qualified for state playoffs, Arroyo said.
Prior to the game, Arroyo spoke to CIF officials, who told him that CIF rules would prohibit another team in Southern Section Division I from advancing to the state round. Arroyo did not think that the emotions of players affected the outcome of the game.
“The game was lost on the field,” he said.
Barzdukas attributed the misconduct on the field to a variety of factors that caused frustration, not just among members of the team. He said everyone involved from the school should take responsibility for the controversy.
“There was plenty of room for improvement from everybody associated with that game, adults and kids,” he said. “And thatâs all been addressed.”
“Sportsmanship, acting respectfully, honoring game officials, all that stuff really matters,” he said.