Forty-one Mission League games had already been played, but for the Wolverines, as it so often happens in sports, the 42nd and final fixture would determine their season.
It had been a winding road which led to that vital crossroads.
At first, the Wolverines seemed like they would not get the top four finish in the Mission League necessary to make the playoffs, sinking down into the mire of the league table after compiling just two points from their first five matches (zero wins, two draws, three losses).
Then, a point of inflection: a 5-0 drubbing over Alemany. The Wolverines springboarded back into playoff contention, winning three and drawing one of their following five matches.
And so, when the time came for game 42 against Chaminade, the Wolverines had a chance to sneak into the playoffs. Win, and they’re in. Lose, and they’re out.
Theo Velaise ’17 believes the team began to perform at the level they expected as they gained more and more real-game experience.
“In terms of any changes, I would just say that we started clicking in the second half of the season,” Velaise said. “The practice and tactics were always there but we finally started executing in mid to late January.”
Early in the season, the team was hampered by less frequent practices than it wanted.
However, Jeremy Yariv ’18 believes their struggles at the beginning of the season led to increased focus on the length and intensity of the practices as the season went on.
“With tests and school, it always makes it really hard to have strong practices, but I think the players were really able to recognize that that needed to change, and that’s what did change towards the end of the season,” he said.
There were only two senior starters on the team this season, opening the door for younger players to fill more prominent roles.
“I would say that these freshmen are the unsung heroes of our season, not only coping with but also thriving in a high level of intensity and competition,” Velaise said.
The team attributes much of their successes to their work ethic.
“Looking at it in relative terms, we did better this year than last year with what is honestly a much younger, physically weaker, and less experienced team,” Velaise said. “Everybody worked extremely hard from practices to lifts to games and ultimately that showed through at the end of league.”
In addition, Boys’ Soccer Program Head Kris Ward said he was impressed by the team’s determination to work harder and improve, especially when the team was struggling.
“It could have been easy to throw in the towel and say it isn’t going to be any better, but that is not what they did,” he said. “They turned around and worked harder, and they really bought into what we were trying to put across to them.”
As the team begins postseason play, the Wolverines want to work hard and be satisfied with their play.
However, they are not shying away from its ultimate goal this postseason.
“Heading into the playoffs, we have one goal: ring season,” Velaise said.