Homecoming draws thousands to campus

By Alex Leichenger

In a Homecoming that saw two varsity teams win in blowouts and football topple the football team ranked 24th in the city by the Los Angeles Times, the best part of the day was seeing “how consistently hard the kids played at every level,” Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas said.

The Oct. 3 event showcased the varsity field hockey, volleyball, water polo, and football teams from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Although booths did not open until 3 p.m., Homecoming sports started bright and early at 9 a.m. with two middle school football games on Ted Slavin Field. Volleyball commenced at 12:30 in Taper Gymnasium with wins over Notre Dame by both the freshman and JV teams. Meanwhile, JV field hockey shut out Newport Harbor. Varsity field hockey routed Chaminade 10-0 and varsity volleyball swept three straight games from Notre Dame as booths and activities opened on the north side of campus.

But water polo fell short of avenging last year’s close loss to Long Beach Wilson in new coach Robert Lynn’s debut Homecoming. The teams were locked in a 6-6 stalemate through three quarters, until Wilson seized control with consecutive goals in the fourth to send the Wolverines to a 10-7 defeat.

Big plays on both sides of the ball vaulted the underdog Wolverines to a 24-20 victory over Alemany.

“We went through that loss and we took a big hit but the football win was a [huge] turnaround for all the Fanatics,” Head Fanatic Eli Moghavem ’10 said. “It changed our mood completely. We played one of the toughest teams in the state and ended up showing more heart on the field, thanks to our boys.”

Quarterback Max Heltzer ’11 threw three touchdown passes in the first home start of his varsity career, connecting twice with Jackson Ligouri ’10 on deep passes over the middle and once with Malcolm-Caldwell Meeks ’10 for another long score.

The Wolverine defense intercepted three Alemany passes in or near the red zone, including two by Nicky Firestone ’11 and the game-clinching pick by Mattie Calvert ’10 with under a minute to play.

Fans stormed the field as soon as the clock ran out.

Earlier in the week, the athletic department had been criticized in an latimes.com blog for scheduling a tough opponent, when “Homecoming games are supposed to be fun for the home team.”

“It turned out to be the smartest decision we ever made,” Barzdukas said. “It turned out we were geniuses.”

With the carnival backdrop and an enhanced fan base of students, parents, teachers, and alumni, Homecoming is a unique day for all athletes.

“There is no doubt playing under the lights, in front of our own crowd provided more energy and had us pumped up just that much more,” Heltzer said.

“There are a lot of other teams that do not get to [play at Homecoming], so just being able to play means a lot to us,” field hockey goalie Adrianna Crovo ’11 said.

For seniors, it is one of their last chances to shine on the big stage in high school athletics.

“My first two Homecoming games we lost, and last year’s the fans left after the first quarter because it was a blowout,” football defensive lineman Conor O’Toole ’10 said. “This Homecoming was awesome in every way. The stands were packed and we upset a great team. The mood after the game was amazing. Everyone was really excited and pumped about the win. Our celebration in the locker room was crazy.”

Ten former athletes from the class of 2003 were inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame during a halftime ceremony.

“We had 5,000 people come to our school that day [according to Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts],” Barzdukas said, “and I think our students, our kids, rose to the occasion.”