The Panthers are using a disappointing 2018 campaign as a lesson.
If you don’t fail, you don’t learn.
That saying fits the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ soccer team quite well.
Last fall’s 4-14-1 campaign was filled with disappointment — from injuries to the scoreboard. But as disappointing as it was, there were some valuable lessons gained along the way.
“We were ready to do well and possibly make the playoffs two years in a row, but we had a lot of bad luck and we didn’t quite have the maturity and experience as a group to face the adversity the 2018 season threw at us,” said third-year W-H head coach Dave Leahy. “But the players definitely learned from last season and they are now hungrier and more committed than we have been in my time at W-H as a result of going through last year’s season.”
The objective this autumn is to keep heads held high up no matter how tough the going gets.
“The goal this season is being positive and avoiding negativity during training and games,” Leahy said. “We don’t want to disrupt team focus and motivation on and off the field.”
As for talent, the Panthers welcome back plenty of it. Seniors Stevie Kelly and Jason Brodeur both return as captains.
A league all-star last year, Kelly anchors the backline.
“Stevie works harder than most on and off the field,” Leahy said. “He is an excellent two-sport athlete. He gives everything he has to both sports, and the result is an incredibly hard-working, athletic, leader that will do anything for his team.”
Brodeur led the Panthers in scoring last season with nine goals and four assists from his forward position.
“Jason is a great kid,” Leahy said. “He brings a passion to our squad, while also realizing the game at the end of the day is supposed to fun. Jason has worked hard to be better at his strengths and especially working on things he thought he could improve upon.”
With the rash of injuries last season, junior midfielder Dalton Desrocher received extended playing time and took advantage of the opportunity, tallying four goals, and Leahy believes he can be even better.
“Dalton Desrocher was our most improved player last year, and he continues to improve,” Leahy said. “Dalton can play on both sides of the ball at a high level. He is very important to our team.”
Three key cogs to the Panthers’ 2017 tournament team have also come back, one way or another. Senior midfielder Adam Milewski returns from a broken ankle, while junior midfielders Joel Arsenault and Peyton Collins have transferred back to W-H. A healthy junior midfielder Brendan Nehiley, who missed a big chunk of last season with an injury, will also be key.
Goaltending was a bit of an Achilles’ heel last year for W-H, but Leahy said he’s liked what he’s seen so far from senior returner Andrew Sullivan.
“[He] put in a great effort in the offseason to be a better goalie,” said the coach. “He is looking very good thus far. He is a great leader and example for our team.”
The Panthers open the season Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 4 p.m. on the road against Plymouth South.
“I would really like to see team camaraderie being strengthened, team defense being established and team belief being widespread in the first few weeks,” Leahy said. “We hope to make teams feel uncomfortable when they play us.”