Alya Mehrtash editor-in-chief
In their first CIF game since 2012, the boys varsity soccer team (13-5-1) beat the Amino Leadership Aztec Eagles (5-2) 1-0 with a game winning header from senior Michael Rabizadeh during the first golden goal overtime period.
The Normans held possession of the ball for the majority of the game, dominating with consistently clean passes and multiple breakaway runs. Attacking midfielder junior Giulian Laudisa had an especially outstanding performance, with his incredible speed being a great weapon on many offensive plays.
Although the Normans had many shots on goal throughout the first two halves, they were not able to find the finishing touch that they really needed, and the final whistle blew while the score remained 0-0.
As the end of the first period of overtime approached, senior Alex Rothman placed the ball on the ground for a corner kick. The curve ball flew over multiple Aztec Eagle defenders, and began to descend in front of Rabizadeh, who lunged forward and headed the ball towards the ground. After making contact with the turf, the ball bounced quickly back up, and flew into the back of the net, passing under the goalie’s arm, as the crowd erupted into a roar of cheers. Due to the golden goal regulations, the game was over, and the Normans had won in arguably one of the most intense and exciting ways to win a playoff game.
“It was surreal. I’ve literally dreamt about this since freshman year and I’m still in a state of shock,” Rabizadeh said. “This was the first time in my high school career that our team made it to playoffs so it means so much to me that we get to keep going.”
Many of his teammates felt the same, including center-back senior Raffi Hartounian.
“It’s a feeling this soccer team hasn’t felt very often in the past four years,” he said. “Some of our team was crying. Some of our team just couldn’t believe what had just happened. It was pure joy and the fruition of our dreams since freshman year.”
However, looking forward to their upcoming CIF game, some of the players feel the team still has room for improvement in certain areas.
“We’ve got to be sharper on the ball and faster with our decision making,” Rabizadeh said. “There were some clumsy mistakes that could have turned into goals for the other team. We can’t have that moving forward.”
Though some of these “clumsy mistakes” gave the Aztec Eagles shots on goal, goalkeeper junior Ariel Yafeh proved time and time again that he was an incredibly reliable final line of defense, as he made multiple notable saves throughout the game.
Hartounian reflected similar sentiments as Rabizadeh, claiming that the Normans need to “move the ball faster and find better ways forward in addition to a sustained team effort in every part of the field throughout CIFs.”
Following the hard-fought win, the graduating seniors on the team were honored in a ceremony as friends and family watched. Holding bouquets of flowers, they each walked down a make-shift aisle formed by two opposite lines of their underclassmen teammates, ultimately leading to their family and friends, and to their coaches Rodrigo Donoso and Joel Manriquez, who said a few words about each senior.
“It’s been a remarkable journey. I look back and remember the first day of summer tryouts freshman year and can’t believe this is the same squad of boys,” Hartounian said. “It was heartwarming to see where the efforts of not only these boys, but also of all the families and friends that were there, and that weren’t, have gotten us. Our senior night game was once again the best game of our entire season, and by extension, our entire high school soccer careers.”