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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

Boys’ soccer scores game-winning goal in final minutes to escape Millikan in CIF-SS quarterfinal

Eric Dearborn
Senior midfielder Spencer Casmassima ’24 advances the ball up the pitch in a playoff match against Millikan High School.

The hero on Tuesday night for the boys’ soccer team was not Nathan Casamassima ’24, again, but rather his twin brother Spencer Casamassima ’24 who extended the Wolverines’ playoff run when scored the game-winner in the final minutes against Millikan High School.

The Rams from Long Beach were beaten 2-1 at Ted Slavin Field in the quarterfinal match of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section (CIF-SS) Division 1 playoffs. Coming off a near season-ending road game against Edison in a golden-goal situation, the team managed to prevail yet again to advance to the semifinals, the most playoff success the program has seen in recent history.

Striker Micah Rossen ’24 and midfielder Spencer Casmassima scored the team’s two goals, in the 18th minute and 76th minute respectively.

The team started off strong against the Rams, controlling time of possession and setting up decent scoring opportunities. In the 18th minute, when a free kick from the Wolverines went into the box, a penalty was called on a Millikan defender who brought striker Josh Barnavon ’24 to the ground with extra physicality. Rossen converted the penalty center-cage low to bring the team up 1-0.

Beginning the second half, the match was relatively even between the two teams, who exchanged possession without scoring. But near the halfway mark, Millikan’s offense began to pick up, when they advanced their strikers aggressively, getting multiple shots on net which were blocked by goalie Jackson Friedman ’27.

Consequently, the Rams had many corner kicks, which allowed them to set up their offense in front of the Wolverines’ goal. Notably on one set play, what seemed like an own-goal on the Wolverines which would put them down 2-1, the referees called goalie interference, voiding the goal for the Rams.

In the following minutes, Millikan began a defensive press, denying the ball from being outleted to the Wolverines’ offense. Although Rossen and striker Theo Ottosson ’25 tried to advance through balls, they were unable to set up a structured offense and the team had to rely on defense with Millikan controlling possession past their half.

But eventually, the Wolverines would hit on one of their tries — starting when Spencer Casamassima checked in at the 74th minute. Defender Jack Letterman ’25 brought the ball up to the 50-yard line and proceeded to thread a long pass through the center of the field to the 30-yard line where Ottosson was waiting. With his back to the goal and Spencer Casamassima running down the right side of the pitch, Ottosson passed the ball behind him on a diagonal, leading Spencer Casamassima toward the goal with a defender behind in pursuit.

Spencer Casamassima was able to arrive at the ball before the Millikan keeper and kicked the ball left of the goalie to bring the Wolverines up 2-1 with only four minutes remaining. In a postgame interview with HWTV, Spencer Casmassima said he was glad to win the game for the team in regulation, rather than a golden-goal situation.

“It felt amazing,” Spencer Casamassima said. “All I could think was when [Ottosson] played that ball to me. All I could think was, ‘I can’t miss this.’ I just hit the ball and prayed. It just felt so amazing. Just such a relief off my chest to know that we had a chance to just win without going to overtime.”

Following the tiebreaking goal, the Wolverines then ran a defensive-centric game for the remainder of the match, looking to clear any balls in their own half and prohibit Millikan from advancing down the field.

The team now advances to the CIF-SS semifinal on the road against Orange Lutheran High School on Feb. 16. They have also secured a position in the Division 1 CIF State playoffs.

In a postgame interview, Rossen said the groundwork for the championship-driven team was laid by the program’s seniors, and that they will continue to follow their leadership.

“I think JT [Federman ’24] Spencer [Casamassima], Nathan [Casamassima], Andrew [Khatchatourian ’24], all of the seniors, have put an effort and really have been there for us,” Rossen said. “They built our team from the ground up and I think they’ve really helped our bid for State. We worked really hard for this as a team. We’re relentless, and we keep pushing.”

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