The Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ soccer team is rallying around positivity.
As he enters his second season at the helm of the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ soccer team, Dave Leahy is preaching the same message to his players as when he first got there.
“Last year it was to be positive and I think every single year, the goal is to be positive and make each player try to bring out the best in each other,” Leahy said.
His reasoning is straightforward.
“I think negativity gets the opposite (of success), so positivity helps people feel like they can do their best,” Leahy explained.
Leahy’s logic seemed to have played at least a part in the Panthers’ success last season, of course with player production accounting for a big chunk. W-H finished with 11 wins (10 more than the previous season), cracked the postseason for the first time since 2014 and even won a game (2-1 over Catholic Memorial) in them.
“Well, we were the first team to make playoffs in a while so it proves that we can get there,” current junior captain Stevie Kelly said.
Positivity doesn’t just translate into wins, but also acts as a way to pull the Panthers closer, especially at the outset of this fall. In addition to graduating a skilled crop of seniors — headlined by former captains Anthony Pasciuto (goalie and Patriot League All-Star), Kyle Nehiley (forward and Patriot League All-Star) and Cameron Rogers (defender) — W-H had a trio of unexpected departures that tested its program.
“We had a few really talented players [leave us],” Leahy explained. “We had an injury, and a private school and then going to another public school, and that happened in the last two weeks.
“But what happened was the team kind of just came together instead of separating and kids realized there was opportunity where maybe there wasn’t as much before.”
The Panthers may have had a few talented players exit for a variety of reasons, but they return a solid core.
Kelly provides a steady presence in many facets of the game at centre-back.
“Last year he was all hustle and just won balls for us,” Leahy said of his captain. “This year he’s our field general and he’s the intelligent guy leading our defense. The maturity, and the leadership and growth is just great to see.”
Senior Matt Hickey and juniors Kyle O’Connor and Cezar Zurita return in front of the net as well.
“I think our strength right now would probably be our defense and possessing,” Kelly said.
Along with Kelly, junior Jason Brodeur will also captain the Panthers. The junior midfielder was their leading goal scorer last fall with nine.
“He’s a talented kid,” Leahy explained. “Everything he has for weaknesses he made sure that he worked on in the offseason. He wants to be as good as he can so he doesn’t just work on his strengths, he works on his weaknesses.”
Senior Nolan Clack (two goals and four assists in ’17) and sophomore Brendan Nehiley (seven goals and five assists) also both provide some playmaking ability and experience in the middle.
The goalkeeper position is still up for grabs between senior Griffin Nickerson and junior Andrew Sullivan.
“Right now, we have two strong contenders,” Leahy said. “It could be that they split time, who knows?”
The Panthers open their season Saturday, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. with a home game against Cohasset.
“I think that we can play good, successful soccer,” Leahy said. “I’m not sure what the overall record will be at the end of the year, but we’ll play some good brand of soccer and we’ll play good defense and we’ll play together.”