Defense was the strength of the Panthers field hockey team this fall.
It was the obvious strength of the Whitman-Hanson Regional High field hockey team, which finished the season with a 2-10-6 record.
“The defense had to stop amazing offenses, and they themselves were truly amazing,” fifth-year head coach Todd Humphrey said.
The Panthers surrendered just 32 goals on the season, five of which came in their second meeting with Keenan Division champ Plymouth North. Against the Keenan’s second best team, Duxbury, which qualified for the tournament, W-H held the Dragons to three goals in two games, as opposed to 13 goals in two games last season.
Even Fisher Division champion Scituate had a difficult time finding the back of the net against the Panthers, scoring two goals in two games. As a result of the stout defensive effort night in and night out, seniors Kathryn Dunn and Olivia Sheehan, who is a captain, were tabbed as Patriot League All-Stars.
“They were phenomenal on defense all season,” Humphrey said.
W-H’s backline also featured some youth in first-year varsity sophomores Skylar Leonard and Noelle Cornetta. The duo switched off playing on the right side.
“They are excellent defenders with a bright future,” Humphrey said. “They will be starting next season as rightdefender and center defender. Look for Victoria Ryan to take over for Olivia at left defender, that spot is crucial to secure and she has the skills to be effective.”
In net, sophomore Madi Savicke put forth a breakout campaign, posting a 1.67 goals against average.
“Madi is good at reading opposing offenses and getting in the right position to make a save,” Humphrey said. “She is also really good and communicates with the defense in front of her as well.”
As good as the Panthers were at stopping opposing offenses, their offense was unable to generate much of anything itself, poking home just 14 goals on the season. Losing senior captain and forward Annika Putur just seven games in, which they were 2-2-3 in, to a torn ACL threw a wrench into the Panthers’ plans. They didn’t win a game in her absence.
“It truly was a turning point in the season,” Humphrey said. “Annika is an incredible ball handler and was a massive contributor to our offense when she was on the field. When she left our line up, we had to reinvent ourselves up front.”
Sophomore Delanie MacDonald provided a silver lining during the team’s offensive woes, scoring a team-high five goals on the fall. Her classmate Lauren Clark had three.
“Delanie was great at positioning herself inside the arc to make a play,” Humphrey said. “Delanie was able to get quick and close shots away from goalies.
“Lauren worked great with Annika and had two goals with her support. She was able to get her other goal hustling on the grass field of Silver Lake.”
Humphrey said despite the impending loss of nine seniors, he firmly believes his club will be competitive next season.
“For the most part, the vacancies will be in the midfielder and forward positions,” he explained. “We do have talented players in the system to fill those spots. Look for the front seven to create more scoring opportunities next season. Defense should be solid. How we transition the ball will determine how well we do overall in the Patriot League.”