Wayland is a subtle town; more friendly than intimidating, really.
It’s a place where supermarkets like Donelan’s have withstood the test of time. Children ride bicycles along the roads while brilliant, ageless pines guard each side like soldiers clearing a path for the president. On the short drive from the Mass. Pike to the high school, there are four streets named after trees, one named after a land formation (Ravine Road), and one named after a body of water (Lake Road).
Every now and then something big and illustrious catches the eye. But somehow, in Wayland, these things always seem to fit in.
A shiny new house with a three-car garage greets neighbors with as much charisma as the split-level ranch next door. And the people, they seem to abide by the same set of rules. So too do the high school’s athletic teams.
“The boys, the families, they’re all polite and respectful,” said Wayland High varsity boys’ soccer coach David Gavron. “What’s so great about being here is that the families have the same priorities that we as a program have. Family comes first, then the classroom, then the soccer field.”
There have certainly been standout athletes at Wayland. Jaleel Bell led the boys’ basketball team to the Division 3 North sectional finals in March. Amy Cunningham draws the attention of opposing defenses in girls’ lacrosse. Connor Ball is one of the country’s finest young skeet shooters. But Wayland doesn’t have a factory producing all-scholastics in every sport.
The girls’ swim team captured the North sectional title in February without scoring a single first-place finish. Coach Mike Foley admitted he would have loved to win an event, but depth across the board works just as well.
The boys’ soccer team is no different.
Wayland has just one state championship in boys’ soccer, in 2002 under revered coach Bill Snow .
“We were a very fast, explosive, counterattacking type team,” said Charles Goodhue , a cocaptain on the ’02 squad and now an assistant coach at Wayland.
The Warriors have been good since, but only once good enough to make a run for the title.
In 2011, Nico Pascual-Leone was a force up top. He scored almost at will. And once they got going, the Warriors seemed to win just as easily. They entered the Division 2 North tournament just above .500, but scored nine goals in four games to advance to the finals, where they lost to eventual state champion Concord-Carlisle, 1-0.
The season is still remembered.
“We had Nico,” said senior Ben Caples .
Pascual-Leone was that special.
Last season, after Pascual-Leone graduated and moved on to Amherst College, was a disaster. The Warriors won three games last fall and missed the tournament for the first time since Gavron took over coaching duties in 2008.
“It was kind of hopeless,” said Caples. “Whatever we did, we couldn’t really bounce back.’’ After their last game, he said, Gavron “brought all the juniors together and said, ‘This feeling right now, it won’t happen next year.’ All the captains and upperclassmen decided we’re not going to let that happen.”
The Warriors took their offseason training to a new level, showing up for fall tryouts in rare form. As a team, they posted the best times in the 2-mile conditioning test Gavron had seen in five years. And there was a different attitude.
Caples, who scored 11 goals over the past two seasons and was described by Gavron as “being groomed as a striker since freshman year,” changed positions to become an outside midfielder, making his top priority to lead the team in assists. Junior Andreas Pascual-Leone , Nico’s brother, expanded his vision on the field and is scoring almost once per game. Collin Moloney , a senior captain, has played almost every position this season, seamlessly filling in gaps created by injuries.
Wayland was 7-0-3 as of Wednesday.
“The 2012 team was so big,” Pascual-Leone said. “We had 30 kids on the team and the chemistry was all off. There were kids on the sidelines upset with not getting playing time. Having a smaller team here, everyone is focused on success and winning. And they’re all for the team, whether they’re getting one minute or all 80.”
Caples, whose move from striker to outside midfield is fairly rare, had nine assists through 10 games. That’s a few more than he collected in the entire season last fall.
“Talk about someone being unselfish, you really can’t ask for more than that,” Gavron said. “A lot of people look at, ‘Well, you’re good if you’re scoring goals.’ Imagine being a senior and your own focus is now setting up your teammates.”
There are standout players on this Wayland team, but none are standing out. Instead, they are fitting the mold, blending in and making the team better than the individual.
The team fits the town. And it is proving that there are ways to win without putting the success of 11 people on one person’s shoulders.
“You can do it,” said Goodhue. “You just have to find your identity. And whatever your identity is, do it very well.”
Franklin girls adjust to new system
The Franklin High girls are still adjusting to the possession-based, defense-first system of new coach Tom Geyson. If they get there, look out.
The Panthers were 6-1-1 as of Wednesday, with five girls who have chipped in on the scoring end to try to fill the void from graduated All-Scholastic Kristi Kirshe . But there is still work to be done.
“We’ve had games where we’d looked very good possessing the ball,” Geyson said. “Most of the games we’ve possessed the ball in the greater portion. From 18 to 18 we’ve been very good. Just at times inside the box we’re not as composed as we need to be yet. I think if it does come, we’ll be a very good team.”
Drawing conclusion from key match
In a much-anticipated showdown between the top two girls’ teams in the Bay State Conference, Newton North rallied back with a rebound goal off a corner kick to tie Needham, 1-1.
The Rockets, who have allowed just one goal per game, have five ties this season.
Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at email@example.com.