What a difference a year can make. For the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ soccer team, it saw what that difference can be first-hand.
After a 1-16-1 campaign last season, the Panthers now find themselves with a 10-7-1 mark. With that comes a berth in the Division 2 South Sectional tournament for the first time in three years.
The win that qualified them for the tournament was a 2-1 triumph over Quincy on Thursday, Oct. 26. First-year W-H head coach Dave Leahy said his team was a tad jittery going in.
“We were a little bit nervous about making a mistake, but we pulled it together [and] got it done,” Leahy said. “We’re on a mission.”
However, the Panthers have had their fair share of struggles over the past few months, which included starting the season with three straight losses. W-H, despite the record, didn’t hang its head.
“I believe every player that is on this team has sacrificed for each other and for themselves,” Leahy said. “And as far as sticking together, they’ve come together to become a really solid team that can face a lot of adversity.”
When you look at the Panthers on the field, it’s not just the juniors and seniors leading the way, but it’s the underclassman chipping in as well.
“The freshman on this team, all four of them, have just really given in awesome minutes,” Leahy said. “And they’re scoring goals, they’re defending, getting assists, they’re very unselfish, they’re a great building block for this program and this team currently.”
A prime example of that was in the Panthers’ final regular season match, a 6-1 win over Cardinal Spellman, on Saturday, Oct. 28. Senior Brendan Nehiley may have paced the W-H offensive attack with two goals, but freshman Joel Aresenault and sophomore Jason Broduer each chipped in a tally as well.
In net, Leahy opted to give senior captain and starting goaltender Anthony Pasciuto the afternoon off, and sophomore Andrew Sullivan and junior Griffin Nickerson combined to get the job done.
“Tremendous growth from what I saw in the summer leagues to the preseason to the first game to the last game” Leahy said. “Just every single day there is growth, even in losses, even in wins, it was all growth.”
Leahy, who said he is extremely proud of how far his group has come from June to now, added he doesn’t want the Panthers’ next bout to be their last.
“We’re going to work as hard as possible, have fun in that first game, but we’re going to be working like we can have success every single game we play,” he said.
No. 13 W-H will open the tournament on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. when it will host No. 20 Catholic Memorial (5-10-1) in the preliminary round.