While kneeling in a circle minutes before their second round of CIF playoffs the boys’ varsity soccer team listened intently to words of wisdom from their coaches before warming up. Their whole season had led up to this point and, for the seniors, if they lost it meant the end of their Samo soccer career. Fortunately for them, that was not the case. Samo beat Burroughs High School 2-0 at Burbank High School on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Before CIF and League, boys’ soccer prepared for their season by participating in off-season tournaments and games. Samo did not do well in their first pre-season tournament, the South Tournament, over winter break. According to head coach Serafin Rodriguez, the team gave up eight goals in three games during the South Tournament.
“We didn’t do too well. We were still kind of feeling out the team,” senior goalkeeper and co-captain Aziz Yehia said. “We only had three returning starters. We pretty much lost our entire starting team from last year, so we had a very fresh team this year. It took a little while for us all to get better at playing together, but I think we’ve really stepped up to it.”
Varsity lost 17 seniors last year and will lose 18 this year.
Although the team did not do well in the South Tournament, the team stepped it up in the Westside Tournament.
“When we go into the Westside tournament we only play Division I teams,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t want to play anybody else. That really sets how we are going to be this year.”
However, the pre-season does not matter in any way for CIF qualification. The pre-season games served as practice for the league season to come.
“We learned a lot about where we needed to improve,” Yehia said. “We played a lot of challenging teams to make us better and I feel like we really did improve a lot during pre-season.”
While certain parts of the pre-season may have been shaky, boys’ varsity went on to have a successful season in the Ocean League. The team went undefeated and was named the Ocean League champions. According to coach Rodriguez, Samo was the only team in the Ocean League to go undefeated.
“[Samo], Beverly and Hawthorne were all virtually tied for first,” Yehia said. “All three of us were right at the top. Defeating Beverly soundly, 2-0, on senior day was a huge uplifting game for us and it really helped us seal Ocean League. From there it has just been uphill.”
By doing so well in their league season, the team qualified for CIF. Samo had its first round game at home against Bonita High School. According to Rodriguez, the team was not a very good match for the “mighty power” of the boys’ varsity team. Samo scored three goals within two minutes of game play and went on to beat Bonita 4-0 and move on to the second round of CIF.
Samo emerged victorious in their second round of CIF. Samo was the first to kick the ball off at the start of the game and when senior midfielder Kevin Eyler made one of the first passes of the game to other senior forward Barak Cassily, Cassily broke the defenders and delivered a powerful shot on goal that after hitting the goalkeeper’s hands went into the back of the net.
“[Scoring the first goal] was one of the best feelings ever,” Cassily said. “I dreamt about it all last night.”
Samo now moves on to the quarter finals of CIF which will be a home game against Cathedral High School.