The Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls’ lacrosse team is aiming to reach the tournament this season.
The Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls’ lacrosse team is down some significant firepower from last spring, but fifth-year head coach Dave Rowell is confident in the group he has this season.
The Panthers are tasked with replacing their top offensive threats from 2017 – Ali Joanis (67 goals, 21 assists), Mel McAleer (38 goals, 55 assists) and Taylor McVeigh (37 goals, 27 assists) – that helped guide the club to a 10-11 record and its third Division 1 South Sectional tournament appearance (a 17-4 loss to Braintree in the first round) in the past four years.
“We’re down a lot, but I really believe we have the girls here to fill those gaps,” Rowell said. “Each year (junior) [Samantha] Whitman gets better, I can see her being the new Ali Joanis. (Senior) Ashley Memmolo is doing great on the draw to take over for [Taylor] and then we have (senior) Lauren Bonavita back.”
The return of Bonavita, who was held out of last season due to soccer, is certainty a welcome sight. During her sophomore campaign, she ranked second on the team with 42 goals.
“Having her in the circle fills a huge gap of just speed and athleticism,” Rowell said.
Bonavita, a midfielder, is not the only Panther who can get up and down the field in a flash.
“We worked so hard in conditioning and speed, so if we’re not there stick-wise, because some of the Duxbury’s have such a strong youth program and we don’t have that,” Rowell explained. “(Senior) Camille [Miller] is one of my best defenders and she didn’t pick up a stick until she played the first time so athleticism [is our strength], I believe. I think if we can get on the circle, get fast breaks, just being faster than the other team will get us some goals early on.”
While the Panthers still plan to put the ball in the net plenty of times, they also plan to be stout on defense. Having Miller, along with classmate and fellow defender Camryn Boyce and senior goalie Kasey Molito as captains should put an emphasis on just that.
“It’s awesome because this is the first year that they’re all defense,” Rowell said. “It’s great that it’s the first year that not all the goal scorers are captains. It’s showing how our focus this year is on defense because this sport is so offensive- oriented that it’s made to be 18 to 15.”
Also, at the outset of this season a freshman girls’ lacrosse team was added, and it’s already paying dividends.
“Normally I take a bloated roster and then I have nine girls looking at me to come into a game,” Rowell explained. “I usually take 25. This year I took 20 and then there’s room for people to move. I think that really helps because now I can get everybody in. [If] someone gets injured, people can move up, people can move down. It gives us a lot more flexibility with our rosters.”
The Panthers will open the season at home Thursday, April 5 at 4 p.m. against Patriot League Keenan Division foe Hingham.
“They’re strong,” Rowell said. “It’s tough to start with them. Obviously, we always try to win, but with them they’re so strong we try to keep the goal gap minimal, so that’s our small goals. The ultimate goal is to win, but to keep it competitive, don’t give them anything easy [and] make their life hell on defense.”