Can a loss be a win? Soccer team thinks so

Defeat by Milken showed freshmen and sophomores at their best, since juniors were away


Photo by Dan Schechter

YOUNG: With no juniors present because of the 11th grade Chesed Trip, Shalhevet lost to Milken 3-0 on December Dec. 8. Due to this members of the team were forced to play new positions, to account for the five juniors away. Pictured above is the soccer team on Dec. 19, when juniors were also absent.

By Martzi Hirsch, 9th Grade

Despite their 3-0 loss to Milken Dec. 8, Firehawk soccer coach Armando Gutierrez would go as far to say that to him, Shalhevet actually won the game. 

“I don’t see a loss, I see an opportunity to grow,” Coach Gutierrez said a few days later about the game, which had been played at the Sepulveda Basin Sports Complex, Milken’s home field..

The reason, he said, was that the team’s five 11th-graders had all left that morning on a chesed (community service) trip to San Diego. That meant team members, now mostly freshmen, were forced to move around and play positions that they had never played before.

“The whole back line really stepped up,” said freshman and starting defender David Oelberger.  

That meant players took up bigger roles on the field as leaders. Coach Gutierrez said he was very happy with the way they played and adjusted – especially considering the fact that they were playing the other school’s varsity team, mostly juniors and seniors.

When you have players on the other team that have mastered their control over the ball more, versus us, who are just beginning to touch the ball, it makes a huge difference.

— Firehawk Coach Armando Guttierez

Not only was there an age difference, but that difference gave Shalhevet a disadvantage in experience and skill level, but also in physical size, especially for the freshmen and sophomores.

Coming after a close win over Desert Christian on Dec. 3 – final score 1-0 – the defeat by Milken brought Shalhevet’s record to 1-1. But the Firehawks were uniformly pleased. 

Playing his second game ever as goalkeeper, Firehawks’ senior Matt Glettner blocked shots left and right consistently throughout the game.  

 “I am very glad,” said Matt, “it [this game] made me very confident about my skills.” 

Coach Guttierez thinks it’s a sign of things to come. 

“I’ve have players, [Matt] being one of them, that have never played soccer before, and when you put them in the most critical position, where everything is pretty much on you, it can be hard,” said Coach Gutierrez. 

“I’m proud not just because of his performance, but his attitude,” he continued. “He’s really stepping into this role, not being afraid. I don’t know, the confidence that he showed today was really amazing.”  


With Shalhevet in red on the left side of the field and Milken in blue, on the right, as the game started Shalhevet’s defense had a really hard time getting the ball up the field to their strikers. The Firehawks were only able to get one shot attempt at goal, which was 33 minutes into the first half of the game.

Shalhevet’s defense was doing a very good job containing and keeping consistent pressure on Milken’s strikers. Shalhevet’s Coach Gutierrez went on to say that their only problem was that they could not control the ball when it was in their possession. 

“I don’t think it had anything to do with the other team being good or us being bad, I think that, once again, it has to do with the level,” Shalhevet’s Coach Gutierrez said, “When you have players on the other team that have mastered their control over the ball more, versus us, who are just beginning to touch the ball, it makes a huge difference.”

At the end of the first quarter the Firehawks were finally able to get the ball up the field to their strikers. But the Wildcats were quick to turn the ball over into their possession, then Shalhevet stole the ball back into their possession, and the ball was going back and forth between the two teams.

It [this game] made me very confident about my skills.

— Matt Glettner, senior goalkeeper

For a few minutes, neither team was able to get the ball that far past center field without turning the ball over, until Milken made a breakthrough and was able to get the ball up to one of the strikers, Ashton Zahabian, for a goal.  


During halftime, Coach Gutierrez brought the Firehawks in close for some words of motivation for going into the second half of the game. He told them that they need to communicate on defense, and that they need to have trust in their teammates more on offense. Coach Gutierrez went on and said that they need to get the ball up to their strikers and to take advantage of the open corners of the field that Milken’s defensive line is giving them.

After halftime the Wildcats were able to get the ball up the field fairly quickly. The Firehawks’ defense came into the game strong and was still able to contain Milken’s strikers, but were still only able to maintain the ball in their possession for very short periods of time.

Once the Firehawks were finally able to kick the ball up the field to their strikers, Milken’s defense started playing very physically. 

In the middle of the second half, one of the Firehawks’ strikers, sophomore Joseph Edry, received a yellow card for pushing one of Milken’s defenders. Shortly after, sophomore Firehawks striker Kai Belhassen was pushed by one of Milken’s defenders, and Milken received a yellow card.

Numbers can mean a lot of things, for schools, for rankings, and all that, but it’s most important to me that my players develop as a player and as a person then anything else.

— Firehawk Coach Armando Guttierez

The Wildcats then pushed the  ball up the field with a few quick passes and were able to get a shot into the goal. One of their strikers, Leo Cohen, kicked the ball and it went right through Glettner’s hands.

But even at the very end of the game, the Firehawks were still putting a lot of pressure on the ball defensively, and on offense were still trying to contain the ball and get it up the field to the strikers. 

Milken was also still playing very hard despite their lead of 2-0, and was able to get one last goal in when Milken striker Seth Cohen dribbled efficiently through three of the Firehawks’ defenders and kicked it into the top left corner of the goal, just out of Glettner’ reach. 

Taking advantage of their size, Milken played a very physical game and received two yellow cards in the second half of the game, alone. 

The Firehawks and Coach Gutierrez said they would be practicing very hard going forward and focusing on fundamentals and team chemistry. 

With its juniors back, the team hoped to do better at their next game versus Environmental Charter on Dec, 15, but Shalhevet lost to Environmental Charter 1-5.

 “I’m not the type of person that likes to focus on numbers,”  said Coach Gutierrez, “Numbers can mean a lot of things, for schools, for rankings, and all that, but it’s most important to me that my players develop as a player and as a person then anything else.”