The boys’ finished the year with nine wins after winning seven games combined the previous two springs.
Building a lacrosse program is a lot like building a house. For the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ team, step one is now complete.
“We laid a great foundation for going forward – for seasons to come,” said first-year coach Tyler Sabens, whose team finished the spring 9-11 after winning seven games combined the previous two seasons.
It starts with establishing a positive culture and is coupled with inserting a love for the game into each athlete.
“We made huge steps in doing that and that wouldn’t have been able to be possible without the senior leadership to lay that framework to keep building that positive culture toward making lacrosse special at Whitman-Hanson and the weight that that carries and how important that is for them as individuals and us as a program,” Sabens said.
The team’s MVP, senior Mario Troiani helped lead the way. For as good as he was in net (stopped nearly 60 percent of shots and was a Patriot League All-Star), he was just as helpful out of it.
“Halfway through the season, I couldn’t ignore the positive influence he was having on the rest of his teammates – whether in practice, film sessions or in games and named him a captain,” Sabens said. “From his first day of tryouts he had that let’s-get-better mentality. He took to my coaching so well. His leadership ability was never in question. He was our coach on the field.”
Senior captain and defender Ryan Trongone was another coach on the field.
“He was incredible,” Sabens said. “Ryan Trongone really led those guys on the backend. His presence and playing ability together helped us turn things around on the back end. He was always comminuting and helping out his teammates whether he was trying to build that culture with myself and other seniors of leading by example. You wish you had 18 or 19 Ryan Trongones.”
Senior captain and midfielder Mason Gorman carried that culture to the offensive side of the field, where he led the team with 58 points, striking for 32 goals and 26 assists.
“He was another coach on the field,” Sabens said. “His lacrosse IQ and knowledge of the game skyrocketed this year. He was so hungry to get better and thirsty for that knowledge to make himself better and that made him a dream to coach.”
Fellow senior captain, midfielder Ryan Downing, potted a team-high 49 goals and dished out eight assists.
“He’s a freak athlete,” Sabens said. “He was fun to watch. You can’t not notice Ryan Downing. He jumps off the field when you’re watching him. He looked like a free safety or slot receiver out there playing lacrosse. He won a lot of games for us.”
Sabens also lauded the leadership and production of senior captain and attack Shane Ross (35 goals and 18 assists) and fellow senior attack Sean Joanis (31 goals and 21 assists).
What the Panthers had been building all season flashed in pieces during their final game of the season, a loss to Marshfield, which eliminated them from playoff contention. Sabens said he took a lot of positives out of that one, despite the 13-3 score.
“It was a one-goal or two-goal game in the first half,” he said. “We had the framework and team offense and team defense to get it done, they knew that, they could feel that, but at some point when you don’t have the amount of horses that you need to beat a team as deep as a Marshfield, the score is going to separate. Those teams that have that depth are going to breakaway.”
With the impending departure of nine seniors, most of whom are offensive guys, the Panthers’ strength is now their defense, where they’ll return the likes of juniors Declan Meehan and RJ Flynn and freshman Bobby Hunter, among others.
“We’re going to have to claw and grind every step that we have,” Sabens said. “But going forward – year three – we’re going to have some guys with serious experience. Not to say year twois going to be a flop, but I’m excited to see what year three and year fourare going to bring us because we’re going to have so much depth.
“Next year is going to be another learning year, another building year. We’re going to have to keep our eye on the prize and focus on the little things – the little successes day in and day out. I think those are the little steps that are going to prove to build us up.”
Sabens said it’s imperative his guys are around lacrosse in one way or another during the offseason.
“They can see how the Duxburys and the Hinghams, Scituates operate, but if they don’t want to do the work on their own, it’s going to be very hard to build this,” Sabens said. “The guys gotta do some of the work, like wall ball and shoot on your own in order to get better as individual players. And also, just watch lacrosse. The more you watch it, the more you’re around it, the more the fundamental concepts tend to sink in that are important to building a successful program.
“It’s not going to happen tomorrow or next year, it’s going to be a long-term plan that hopefully the program can get better and better as it goes along.”