The Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls’ soccer team will be led by a trio of senior captains, who will have a young core around them.
Another season, another clean slate for the Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls’ soccer team.
The program, which has not had a losing campaign since 1999, also hasn’t fallen short of the sectional semifinals — which occurred last fall — in the past four seasons.
In 2014, the Panthers made it to the state title game, in 2015 they made the sectional title game and their 2016 season ended with a loss in the state semifinals.
“I’m pretty fortunate that we get some really talented players that come through and I think we as a coaching staff are smart enough not to get in their way,” head coach David Floeck said. “I think we’ve been blessed that the program has established itself so younger kids in the fourth, fifth, six grade, who want to be a part of the program, are already working towards that and working their skills to get here.
“And so, year after year we graduate great players and then in comes some other great players and that’s how we’ve been able to have success.”
Coming into this fall Floeck’s club, which went 17-2-2 last season, has some major losses with the graduation of past captains and four-year starters — defender Elana Wood and midfielder/forward Eve Montgomery.
“They’d played in everything from a state championship game to right on down so they were able to share that with everybody, so it’s a big void but we have a couple other seniors returning that have a lot of experience and we’re looking forward to their leadership as well,” Floeck said.
Defender Betty Blake and midfielders Katie Korzec and Taylor Kofton (2016 All-American) were also cornerstone pieces who have graduated as well.
2017 All-American Lauren Bonavita and her 43 goals last season and school-record 113 leaves the toughest hole to plug, and Floeck isn’t even going to try to do that.
“It was a one-man wrecking crew,” the 23rd-year head coach said of Bonavita. “It’s a huge void, but we’re not trying to fill that because that would be huge mistake on our part to put that kind of pressure on anybody, so we’re trying to look at doing it differently, but certainly when you have a player of that type of talent, it’s always a big loss.”
Floeck said he believes his team’s balance and depth are its two main strengths.
“We have people who can play multiple positions,” he said. “We have quite a bit of pace, we’re a pretty quick team, but we’re young so there’s going to be some growing pains along with that but it’s nice because they don’t know what they don’t know yet so it gives us a great opportunity to teach.”
The most notable multi-faceted Panther is Boston College-bound senior Sammy Smith.
Smith, who was voted a Patriot League All-Star, first-team EMass and all-state as a defender last season, can also play up the field and play it well.
“We’re still playing around with that depending on how some other things go, but she’ll probably play a little bit of both (positions),” Floeck explained. “She’s phenomenal.”
Smith will also captain the Panthers alongside classmates — defender Olivia Johnson and goalkeeper Skylar Kuzmich.
This will be Kuzmich’s fourth year in W-H’s net.
“[We want to] get as far as we can in the tournament,” Kuzmich said. “We’re actually going to have a really good year, I can feel it. We have a lot of good freshmen coming in.”
Other than W-H’s three senior captains, most of its experience comes from its underclassmen, such as the likes of juniors Riley Bina, Zoe Cox, Anika Floeck, Delaney Hall and Samantha Perkins as well as sophomore Alexis Billings.
However, despite the youth, Kuzmich, a Hofstra University commit, still has high expectations.
“I think we’re going to do really well and get really far this year,” she said.
W-H opens the season on the road Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 5:15 p.m. against Notre Dame Academy of Hingham.
“Right now, in all honesty, and I don’t want to sound clicheish, but because we’re so young, we want to be better today than we were yesterday,” Floeck said.