By Zack Goldman
When the Wolverine boysâ 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 squadÂ 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 â07 nodded the Wolverine boysâ 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.Calvertâs goal, the product of a Zack Mirman â07 free kick from the touchline, sent the fellow players and fans alike into rapture.âIt was inexplicable,â Mirman said. âGetting 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.âAfter safeguarding their one goal advantage, the team rejoiced after a physical and emotional struggle.âFor me, personally, it was incredible.Â I was sobbing.Â I broke down in tears after the game,â Mirman said.As Coach Freddy Arroyoâs 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 âPlayoffs.âFollowing 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 teamâs playoff position was not compromised.âWhat Arroyo said to us [last week] was that the week coming up is the most important week of practice that weâll ever have,â Mirman said.Â âWe just have to work hard and prepare well for playoffs because it will be a huge game.âHe and his teammates believe that more than a shot at glory, playoffs represent a time to validate the teamâs call for elevated respect from the school.âI think people are now starting to understand that this year was always going to be a good year,â Mirman said. âIt hasnât really been lucky or surprising.Â This is by far, by far, by far the most team unity and the closest knit group weâve ever had in four years.âHe also noted that the teamâs criticism was largely the product of onlookers hastily judging the team before they were at full strength.âThe only reason why we had criticism at the beginning was because we were missing our football players.Â After those first five games, surely our critics were silenced a little bit.âAnd this tight group, a possible Cinderella in this yearâs CIF field, vows not to let their fans down.âI think we are going to play well,â Mirman said. âWe definitely will not come out flat.âEven 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 todayâs clash, Mirman can only offer that the team is excited to finally be in the postseason after missing out for so many years.