Waldorf boys’ soccer has relied on togetherness to build program
Waldorf School’s second trip to the CIF Southern Section boys’ soccer playoffs didn’t go quite as niftily as the first, in the debut season two years ago, but that’s OK. Winning is great and all, but the Wildcats’ ethos are about bigger, more important things.
So when their late comeback bid in a Division 7 wildcard clash fell short Tuesday afternoon in a 2-1 loss to visiting Rancho Alamitos, there was satisfaction among the tears. They’d lost to a superior foe, one far more technically gifted, but had battled gamely and offered a good look at the strides they’d taken since the first practice three months ago — and through the Costa Mesa private school’s first three campaigns.
Waldorf School Orange County, a K-12 school stressing academics and the arts that opened in 1988 as part of a worldwide educational movement stemming from post-World War I Germany, has 62 high school students, just 23 of them boys. Nineteen play for the soccer team, and most had never seriously kicked a ball before joining up and knew little about the game.
“The goal and objective of the program is to teach a love of soccer, teach a love of the game,” said head coach Wil Eijpen, a Dutchman who arrived in Orange County with his family 16 years ago and quickly discovered the school through its “Mommy and Me” toddler program with his Scottish-born wife, Kim (now a Waldorf teacher), and eldest son, Jamie, then 2. “So that they have a sport they feel proud of that they’ve played as part of their high school, a sport they feel passionate about and, hopefully, play past high school. We hope we can at least give them a love of the sport.”
That toddler is now a senior and the Wildcats’ premier talent, a do-it-all defender whose forays forward fuel the best of their attack. Jamie Eijpen provided the program’s impetus, then a middle-schooler playing club soccer whose father wanted him to have the opportunity to play in high school when the time came.
Waldorf joined the Southern Section in time for the first post-pandemic season and did well, finishing third in the Agape League and routing Lucerne Valley in their Division 7 playoff opener.
“We were absolutely ecstatic,” Wil Eijpen said, “and it showed us that with dedication, with passion, really building a team and focusing on creating a family on and off the field, that’s something that can create magic.”
Brandon Wang bathed in that magic, evolving from “one of the runts” — an eighth-grader who’d never played the game — into a vital figure in attack and co-captain of the squad.
“It’s been an amazing experience. It’s something you can’t get anywhere else,” the senior forward said. “I started off with low confidence, had no touch on the ball, had no game. At any other school, if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t have had a [roster] spot. It’s thanks to this program I’ve been able to grow so much and grow a love for this game.”
Only Jamie Eijpen and freshman goalkeeper Max Schwartz have club experience, so the focus often is on how to be a teammate and the basics of playing the game — “How do you control the ball, how do you pass the ball, how do you move the ball,” says Wil Eijpen — and tactics emphasize the team’s strengths, utilizing a counterattacking approach built from strong defensive organization.
That was on display Monday, when the Wildcats (5-7-1) limited Rancho Alamitos’ ability to turn possession into opportunity. The Vaqueros (8-10-2), who advanced to Thursday’s first-round game at Pilgrim (11-2-0) in Los Angeles, dictated play through a skilled and savvy midfield led by Kevin Hinojoza, whose zigzagging run into Waldorf’s box set up Melvin Castro’s 12th-minute opener. Hinojoza then scored on a beautiful chip off the post in the top-right corner three minutes into the second half for a 2-0 advantage.
The Wildcats were at their best in the final 20 minutes. They just missed halving the deficit in the 66th minute, Jamie Eijpen blasting wide from a close-range, indirect free kick, then got their goal three minutes into stoppage. That came from a long Eijpen throw-in that bounced through the box and was bundled home at the left post by one of the team’s three Myanmar refugees who have asked to remain unidentified.
It wasn’t quite enough, but that’s all right.
“I think this program has longevity,” said Jamie Eijpen, who looks forward to working with the program while he’s in college. “There’s a sense of community, and I think that holds longevity because the boys want to come out here. Not many of these guys would ever have had a team experience had they gone anywhere else. ... We have a sense of brotherhood, a sense of passion, and I think that brotherhood brings everyone in every year.”
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