It was back in 2014 when the Whitman-Hanson Regional High field hockey program was revived after a 30-year hiatus.
W-H head coach Todd Humphrey said he remembers it like it was yesterday.
“I look back at the past and four years ago, it was 28 girls with me in the middle of a grass field trying to figure out field hockey,” Humphrey said. “That’s where we were at.”
The following fall, W-H, which competed at the junior varsity level during its first season back, was granted a varsity team. As expected, it was a struggle for the Panthers who didn’t manage a single victory and scored a mere three goals.
Last season, the program formed a freshman squad as participation numbers boomed to nearly 60. At the varsity rank, W-H battled through its first 17 games without a single win, before fielding a 3-1 victory over East Bridgewater in its final game of the season.
This autumn, the Panthers – led by senior captains Colleen Hughes, Ashley Memmolo and Tina Woodward – roared to new heights. For starters, their win total climbed to six. Humphrey said that despite the challenges his group has faced in the past, it never hung its head, and it paid off.
“It’s just a matter of learning from our mistakes or learning from losing really,” the fourth-year Panthers head coach said. “If you don’t learn from losing then you’ll never know how to win, so I think that’s kind of our philosophy.”
On the field, one aspect W-H honed in on improving was ball movement and it showed as its goal total spiked 11 last season to 30.
“It definitely helped, and how we took care of the offensive zone was big too,” Humphrey said. “The way the girls positioned themselves and we capitalized on scoring chances for sure, a lot better than last year.”
Humphrey said he felt his club’s biggest advantage was its speed, which was on prime display in the Panthers’ final game of the season, an 8-2 win over Norwell on Oct. 27.
“They were flying,every- body was giving everything they had,” he said. “It was really fun to watch the girls play all-out as much as they did. We were flying.”
For Humphrey, despite the result, it was a bittersweet ending as he was forced to say goodbye to his senior class of 15 players. About half of those girls were part of the 28 Humphrey was in the middle of a grass field with trying to learn field hokey a few years ago.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how special that group is,” Humphrey said. “They’ve been with me since the beginning. They shaped [and] molded the entire program and just their positive attitudes and their willing to take risk has elevated our entire program, and I couldn’t be more proud of them and grateful.”
Humphrey said he is highly optimistic for the continued success of the program, which had a record 64 girls in it this fall.
“It depends on the energy you put into it as a coach and as a coaching staff and my players just believing that we can be competitive,” he said. “But we’ve come very, very, very far. It’s going to be a very young varsity team next year, but they’re going to be fun to watch.”