Dastan Pakyari understands the tradition of excellence surrounding the Lexington boys’ soccer program. The first-time head coach enters his new position with first-hand experience.
Class of 2011, Pakyari played two varsity seasons for the Minutemen before attending Syracuse University to study engineering. He works fulltime as a control engineer for Siemens, a global company that focuses on electrification, automation, and digitalization.
“I like to say, my job is like designing the brain of a building,” Pakyari said.
In the offseason, at age 26, he was hired at his alma mater after three-year coach Keith Beatty stepped down.
“Having played here for this town and this school, I just love being here every day,” said Pakyari, who started playing youth soccer in town at age 7.
“I’m very cognizant of the tradition that they have here and the tradition of excellence in the program, so it’s an honor to represent the school I used to play for.”
His familiarity with the program can not be undersold.
The Minutemen pride themselves on the special opportunity to represent the town of Lexington on the field. It helps them form a unique bond of togetherness, which is a big reason why they’ve been able to sustain success year in and year out.
Since 2006, Lexington has compiled a 186-38-42 record in boys’ soccer, winning a Division 1 state title under Beatty’s tutelage in 2016.
The transition period that usually exists when a first-time head coach is hired has been expedited. Pakyari and his players are all on the same page because the coach has literally been in their shoes.
“He knows how to interact with players our age and not be too heavy on everyone,” said Dylan Corbett, one of 11 returning seniors. “But he also has a driving force and the thought of we’re doing this for the school.”
With tradition comes high expectations, but Pakyari does not believe expectations translates into additional pressure. He believes those expectations help prepare student-athletes for life after high school.
“While at school, they see the titles and banners,” Pakyari said.
“But it’s nice to have things expected of you. It’s realistic to what you’re going to experience in college and when you have a job. You want to be held to a high standard. I think we embrace that expectation that we’re going for something greater than we might accomplish.”
The strong returning cast is eager to build off last season’s stellar season that ended in heartbreak.
The Minutemen won the Middlesex League title and earned the top seed in the Division 1 North bracket, but fell in the quarterfinals on penalty kicks to St. John’s Prep.
Pakyari, an assistant on Beatty’s staff last fall, also experienced postseason disappointment as a player. His junior season, the Minutemen lost their only game of the season in the tournament.
Now, the player-turned-coach, lead assistant Paco Maroto, and his current group are trying to continue the program’s storied history.
“I think our bond that we’ve all played here and we’re all from here ties us closer together,” said Pakyari, who earned his first varsity win Thursday in a 8-0 shutout of Stoneham.
“I’m familiar with how a season can end and how heartbreaking it can end so it’s good preparation. We can know what to work hard to avoid.
“The best thing you can do is adjust to every team,” Pakyari said. “That way you’re not the same team every week and you can change your identity to be what you need to be to be competitive.”
At Wellesley, the Raiders are also playing for a first-year varsity coach, former assistant Chris DiCecca, after advancing to the D1 state final last fall against Ludlow. Tim Mason resigned as coach to focus on increased responsibilities with the women’s soccer program at nearby Babson.
A 2011 Wilmington High grad who previously also coached the freshman team at Needham, DiCecca has brought a vibrant and youthful voice to the squad. He has a strong rapport with the returnees, including midfielder Oskar Haeberlein , the Globe’s reigning D1 Player of the Year.
“We’re returning a great nucleus so that helps where I don’t have to change much,” DiCecca said.
“The one hope is to add one more win to that win column, that’s all we were missing last year. But my ultimate philosophy is for them to grow as young men, soccer players, and members of the community.”
The returning Wellesley seniors were hesitant at first about the idea of bringing in a new coach because of the success they achieved under Mason. But senior captain Will Manning said the team has bonded and “[DiCecca has] put us in a position to succeed,” Manning said.
“It feels like he’s been here the whole time. It’s been great. All the worries have gone out the window. We’re picking up right where we left off.”
■ North Andover sustained significant turnover after last season, including the graduation of Ryan McDonald , a Globe All-Scholastic. But head coach Kyle Wood has five seniors that he hopes he can can lean on after the Scarlet Knights advanced to the D2 North semifinals.
“We have a younger group this year. They’ve all been picking our system up pretty quickly,” Wood said. “I have five returning seniors that all have great leadership. It’s a bit of a rebuilding year but I’m hoping to be competitive.”
Wood expects senior midfielders Jimmy Boyle and Lucas Sciaudone to lead on and off the field. The Knights jumped out to a 2-0 start in the Merrimack Valley Conference with a 3-0 win at Methuen on Tuesday and a 6-0 rout of Tewksbury on Thursday. Boyle had two goals and an assist in the opener.
■ Nauset started the season with an uncharacteristic result, a 0-0 draw against Scituate. But the Warriors responded with a quality win, 3-0 over New Bedford. With the Atlantic Coast League dissolving, Nauset will make its debut in the Cape & Islands League on Tuesday, with a road game at Barnstable.
Coach John McCully said his team’s new league is “not as strong” as the old ACL, so he scheduled Scituate, Revere, New Bedford, and others to toughen up their non-conference schedule. “Our non-league is better than our league schedule,” he said.
■ Lincoln-Sudbury has started 2-0 in impressive fashion. L-S beat defending D3 champion Wayland 4-0 with four scorers, and notched a comeback win over Waltham with two second-half goals for a 2-1 final.
Games to watch
Tuesday, Arlington at Watertown, 6:30 p.m. — A pair of unbeaten, Top 20 teams meet in an early-season Middlesex League matchup.
Wednesday, Lincoln-Sudbury at BC High, 4 p.m. — BC High opens its season, hosting the fourth-ranked Warriors in nonleague play.
Friday, North Andover at Masconomet, 4 p.m. — Two top 15 programs clash in an intriguing nonleague clash.
Saturday, Ludlow at Medford, 4 p.m. — The defending Western Mass. Division 1 champion makes a visit to Winthrop Street for a game against the Mustangs.
Saturday, Revere at Newton North, 11 a.m. — The eighth-ranked Tigers face a good non-league test.
Matt Doherty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Charlie Wolfson also contributed.