Ramo Partida & Carter Snell
The Nantucket Whalers boys’ varsity soccer team ended its regular season undefeated in league play and moved into the playoffs with a league record of (16-0-1) and overall record of (16-1-1). As in recent years, the team had many heavily one sided games, with the exception of a tie with Sturgis East and a loss to Martha’s Vineyard - and as MV is in a different league, that game did not affect Whalers’ finishing record.
This gives the team the number one seeding in the Division 4 South Sectional Playoffs, which means it will host its first playoff game on the island. Co-captains Andrew Dawson and Simon Johnson were both asked about the success they predict as the team enters the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. “We have a really well-rounded team this year, and I think that’s going to give us a big advantage in the playoffs because all of our players are so versatile and really any of us can play anywhere,” said Johnson. “It’s going to be tough, but I have confidence that we’ll make it far this year.” Dawson concurred: “As a fourth year player, I would say both myself and the team have a good understanding of our potential and what we can achieve in the postseason. With a strong regular season, we are right where we want to be in the number one seed. Last year we were a really individual-based team and relied on certain players to score goals for us in tight situations, whereas this year we are more of a well rounded team. We have scorers, we have midfielders, and we have defenders, and everyone works together. We don’t have a necessarily ‘easy’ road in the playoffs this year, but we hope to match the success we found last year.” The two seniors hope to finish off their last season as a Whaler with pride.
Last year, the Whalers made it to the Division 4 South Sectional Finals but lost to the strong Archbishop Williams 3-1. This year the team has already faced their rival, defeating them 3-0 in a friendly preseason matchup. Archbishop Williams finished the season with a record of 6-1-3 and will continue to be a strong opponent for the Whalers should they face off in the postseason.
The Nantucket team has a well-rounded team and a strong roster of young players with good speed and ball handling skills. However, the leading scorers of the team, Mario Reyes (25) and Simon Johnson (23) have been a huge asset in the team’s winning streak along with Andrew Dawson, who leads in assists (20).
Coaches Rich Brannigan and Peter Mehlert have been looking ahead to the State Championship since the first day of pre-season practice, hoping to be able to win the title for the first time. They have implemented a very strategic focus to the practice schedule, working the players hard with ball handling skills and a disciplined approach. Also, continually experimenting with the lineup has made for a solid 11 starting players. Players, like junior Carter Snell (who was moved from defense to center midfield), and junior Cory Partida and sophomore Emmet Clarke (both now playing in the back four) have made a big difference to the team’s play.
The team put these new skills into action in the quarterfinal game Wednesday the 9th when they came back from a 3-1 score in the first half. After managing to tie it up in the second half, they won within the first minute of overtime with a goal by Reyes.