After missing out on the tournament last season, the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ lacrosse team is ready to redeem itself.
Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ lacrosse head coach Rob White strongly believes last season was an outlier.
Due to a whole host of different reasons the Panthers were down key pieces throughout the course of the campaign, resulting in a 5-14 record. It was the first time they had missed the tournament since White took the position in 2014.
“We lost Jake Long, one of our top players, like the fourth game in for the season – that really handicapped us,” White said. “We had a number of boys, for reasons beyond our control, were not available during games. It was a tough year last year.”
But, last season is a thing of the past. As for this spring, W-H returns a strong core of starters across the field, led by its senior captain and midfielder Kyle Nehiley, who has started since he was a freshman. Nehiley, as a captain, helped engineer the boys’ soccer team’s turnaround in the fall as well.
“I’ve spoken to him numerous times that we hope he saved some of that magic to spread here,” White said. “He’s a great kid, I’ve known Kyle and have coached Kyle since he was like 8 and I’ve seen him grow up and he’s a tribute to his parents. As good of a lacrosse player [he is], he’s an even nicer kid.”
Juniors Ryan Downing (midfielder), Mason Gorman (attack) and Sean Joanis (attack) have also been penned into the starting lineup since they joined the team.
Long’s return will also provide the Panthers with an immense boost at midfielder.
“You’re getting a league all-star back,” White said of Long. “And he was on his way to a bang up season last year when he had [about] 20 goals and he was on fire and he blew out his knee and he was done for the year. Having him back is tremendous.”
Junior defensemen Ryan Trongone and Jacob Nixon and sophomore defenseman Declan Meehan will also be relied upon heavily in front of what will be a platoon in net to replace outgoing goalie Quinn Sweeney.
“We’ve got an open competition this year between freshman Nathan Morse and junior Mario Troiani,” White explained. “We’re gonna go with the hot hand this year.”
White added that Morse has been a pleasant surprise thus far.
“[It was his] first time picking up the stick and for anybody that’s ever played lacrosse knows goaltending requires an extra gear and Nathan’s shown a fearlessness and a confidence that you need to play goalie in boys’ lacrosse,” White explained. “That ball’s coming at you 90 miles an hour and you’ve got very little protection.”
As for goals – White is cautious to set them.
“We have a one game season,” White said. “Every game is different; every game is important. We don’t even look to the tournament.”
The Panthers, who opened the season with a 17-2 loss to defending Division 2 state champion Hingham on Thursday, will resume play Tuesday, April 10 at 4 p.m. at home against Scituate.
“We always talk about you wanna play like a man does,” White said. “You might not come out on the winning end, but you want to be able to look them in the eyes at the end of the game and he knows he played a worthy opponent regardless of the score.”