The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Standing on Business

Eric Dearborn
Spencer Casamassima ’24 and Josh Barnavon ’24 celebrate in a game against Chaminade on Jan. 3.

It was Boys’ Soccer Program Head Michael Erush’s first day at work. In the brisk spring weather, Erush entered practice with the team as its new head coach. After introducing himself, Erush instructed the players on the field to do passing drills, where he analyzed their different playstyles. However, after the first practice, Erush said he knew there was a lot of work to be done with the group.

“I smile when I think about day one,” Erush said. “Obviously, it was during COVID, but the culture was different. Not many players, due to many different reasons, played at high-level club soccer. But again, they worked hard, and we had to kind of create a game model based on the players we had.”

Senior defender JT Federman ’24, who was a freshman when Erush became head coach, said the team has changed significantly under Erush’s leadership.

”Everuthing was new,” Federman said. “I was a freshman then and even though I wasn’t close with everybody else, I could tell that the other grades of guys weren’t that close either, and it wasn’t a bonded team. We had an okay year, but it wasn’t what we wanted. Those first few seasons were important for everybody to get to know Coach Erush and see that he’s a really good coach who has a lot of talent. He deserves a lot of credit for these past couple of years.”

Erush and the Wolverines are currently first in the Mission League, following a historic season where the team won its first Mission League title in over two decades. The team is also predicted to be placed in Division 1 for the California Interscholastic Federation playoffs and is currently on the Open Division watchlist. Erush said the dedication of the senior class has been a major factor in the team’s recent success.

“Ever since day one, this senior class three years ago really bought in,” Erush said. “Now each one is playing at a very high level throughout the year, with club soccer and Harvard-Westlake. But I think overall, now they know what it’s like to be successful.”

Federman said the team has embraced a new mindset and shown more dedication to the game. .

“It was a big culture change,” Federman said. “Especially these past two years, everybody’s been really committed to accomplishing all of our goals. We set the same goals in my freshman and sophomore years, but we didn’t work as hard as we needed to actually accomplish them. These past two years, everybody’s been extremely focused and committed to winning.”

Erush said the team has emphasized a high standard of upperclassmen leadership.

“For me, leadership is greater than talent,” Erush said. “The seniors lead by example, and they know what to do. The juniors still have a lot to learn, even though they think they might know everything. But I think for [the seniors], seeing the recent success of the program creates a little bit more intensity with our opponents. To continue being successful, you need to put in the work. So for the junior class for the following year, they know what it takes and they can’t cut any corners because they’re going to be held accountable.”

Junior striker Micah Rossen ’25 said the senior captains have emphasized intensity as well as accountability for the team this season.

“Once [the seniors] started winning, especially since last year, they understood what needed to be done to help the team, Rossen said. ” [Federman] has grown a lot. He used to only send text messages, but now he speaks during team meetings. [Spencer Casamassima ’24 and Nathan Casmassima ’24] have really acclimatized to the role of captain as well. They always keep us in check so we’re not messing around and we stay focused, which is really important because we’ve never really had that on the team.”

Rossen has returned this season after suffering a tibial tubercle fracture in his knee over the summer, when he took a penalty shot in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) playoffs. Despite scoring the penalty to win the game, an awkward landing caused his knee to bend in the opposite direction, ultimately tearing a tendon in his knee. Rossen said his teammates supported him during his difficult injury process.

“It was a struggle, obviously,” Rossen said. “My friends were always there. Once I got back, my friends even showed up at my house. They were really supportive, and my parents were always there for me too. But it was a struggle because I couldn’t really do anything for a while.”

Rossen has been cleared to play since the beginning of the season, where he has made an immediate impact on the team’s offense. Rossen said being able to finally play soccer has been fulfilling for him.

“It’s great,” Rossen said. “I love [playing soccer]. It’s definitely a big part of why I’m so happy now. But I really looked forward to playing, and this was a big jump from before.”

Federma said said Rossen back in the lineup has been crucial for the team’s success this season.

“[Rossen] is really talented and not having him early in the season was a really big deal, because he’s a big key to our success, so having him back is really nice,” Federman said.” He’s already scoring goals and assisting, and he’s back to his usual ways. He just has a good presence on their field that I think we were missing the first couple of games of the year.”

Earlier in the season, the team competed in the Socal College Showcase from Dec. 27-30, where they played against against several ranked teams in the country, including Gulliver Preparatory (FL), ranked second in the country, and Servite High School, ranked 11th in California, according to MaxPreps. Although the team went 1-2 during the showcase, winger Tyler Ullrich ’24 said the games were an opportunity for the team to gain experience against high-level competition.

“Going into the games, we were nervous a little because of how highly [the teams] were ranked,” Ullrich said. “I think the whole team performed very well, but unfortunately the score didn’t go our way. But I think there were definitely games that we could have at least tied or maybe won if we just finished our chances. For me at least, playing such good teams is more fun and enjoyable because it’s such high competition.”

Ullrich said the team looks to close out Mission League strong for a second-consecutive title.

“For me personally, winning Mission League is a really big goal,” Ullrich said. “We’re in a spot right now where it’s definitely doable, and something that we can accomplish if we stick with it. If we let up one game, or we lose at the end of the season, we could almost lose Mission League. So everyone’s got to stay focused.”

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Justin Tang, Assistant Sports Editor
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