Wolfpack boys’ soccer team gears up for upcoming season

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

A three-mile run, the pacer test, then a series of weight room exercises, these three signs indicate to a soccer player the high school season is right around the corner. To that point, on Monday, November 15, 80 of the Claremont High School boys’ soccer players completed their pacer tests in order to begin training for the upcoming 2021-22 winter season.

The teams are due back promptly this year after just wrapping up their postponed 2020-21 season six months ago. Due to COVID-19 protocols in place during the winter, both the boys’ and girls’ soccer seasons were shelved and did not begin until March 2021 — during which time the club season was also going.

While it was a struggle for the boys to manage both high school and club soccer simultaneously over the spring, varsity head coach Fred Bruce-Oliver explained his CHS team was lucky to even have a season last year.

“It was one of those situations where I’m just glad we had a season,” he said. “Numbers wise we didn’t have as many kids as we expected, but we were still able to field three teams: varsity, j.v., and a frosh. That’s what I’m happiest about.” The head coach also added he was particularly happy about giving the then 14 seniors on the team one last run of games before they graduated.
In May 2021, the team ended the quaint season with a third-place Palomares League finish, boasting a 5-3-2 record in league and a 6-5-4 record overall.

The Wolfpack’s most recent result came on May 11 during the play-in game for the Division IV CIF-Southern Section 2021 Boys’ Soccer Championships. The team traveled to play Riverside Polytechnic High School where they lost 3-1 to the Bears.

Coach Bruce-Oliver, who has been with the soccer program since 1986, explained the team obviously wants to improve upon last season’s play-in finish, but after graduating over a dozen senior impact players that could prove difficult.

“Now we have to replace them,” Bruce-Oliver chuckled. “Having to replace that many kids – 14 – it’s going to be tough but the talent is there. But they’re going to be young [replacements].”
Coach Bruce-Oliver said it helps though that most, if not all, the players on the various CHS teams play club soccer for Claremont or neighboring cities, which bodes well for the new and returning players as they were able to stay sharp in the offseason.

“We start [practicing as a team] late. We started yesterday, on the 15th. I know other schools have been going since September and we’re way behind in that regard but we almost always catch up,” coach Bruce-Oliver said. “After a few season games and by the time we get to league, first week of January, we’ll be alright [playing together].”

Though he’s modest about the team, coach Bruce-Oliver sets high standards for his boys, wanting only the best players and mentalities on the CHS team. One player he says can not only be a standout defender this upcoming season, but also an on-field leader will be senior Eli Wakefield.

“I expect a lot from him. He’s been through it, he started playing regularly as a sophomore and last year he was a ‘captain in waiting’” as coach Bruce-Oliver described. “He’s a quiet leader, but he does most of his talking by the way he plays and the guys like him first of all and know he’s a good player.”

Coach Bruce-Oliver shared he doesn’t remind the team each practice that their efforts are for league or CIF specifically, because he already knows the players are envisioning themselves lifting each one in their imagination.

“I do not emphasize, ‘let’s go win CIF’ because it’s very hard, very difficult to do. I know the players themselves think that way, but you have to take it one step at a time. Have a good preseason to get ready for season, do your best in [league] season and place top three. You’ll at least get a play-in game or if your record is good enough, a first round game,” he said.
Given the school’s history of winning, coach Bruce-Oliver is confident the team can conjure up another positive and winning season for the history books.

“We’ve had a good program here for quite a while and I know the caliber of players that we have. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said pretty much every player that comes out [here] is a club player. Our guys expect to do well and they know the history of the program,” coach Bruce-Oliver said.

The boys’ teams first game will be a scrimmage match at and against Los Osos High School on Wednesday, November 24. The Wolfpack’s next game will be preseason match against the Chaffey High School Tigers on Thursday, December 2. Kick-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

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