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Whitman boys soccer on the upswing

Whitman senior goalkeeper Dan Zagorski.

Whitman senior goalkeeper Dan Zagorski. (Credit: South Huntington Schools/Steve Bartholomew)

These days, Whitman senior goalkeeper Dan Zagorski believes his teammates are putting their soccer uniforms on with a much greater sense of pride than in recent years.

And they have plenty of reason to.

In a preseason coaches’ poll, Whitman’s boys soccer team was chosen to finish last in Suffolk League II, which didn’t sit too well with players and coach John DiGiacomo.

“We knew some of our guys were coming back and they were strong,” DiGiacomo said. “We certainly didn’t believe we deserved to be picked eighth.”

After a 7-0 overall start, many others no longer deem last place the probable destination for the Wildcats this season, either. It’s also the best start to a season for Whitman since 1996, DiGiacomo said.

Five of those wins have come against teams that were selected as part of the top 10 in Suffolk from the same preseason coaches’ poll.

“The message has been kind of sent to the county that we're OK,” DiGiacomo said.

Whitman’s next test comes Monday afternoon at home against Central Islip. Both teams are tied for first place in League II at 5-0.

“It feels great going into the game on Monday knowing it’s an early battle for first place,” Zagorski said. “We’re at the top instead of being at the bottom.”

Zagorski, a four-year varsity player, knows all too well what being at the bottom is like.

In his previous three years, Whitman won just three games in League II.

“Back then, losing took a toll,” Zagorski said. “At practices, there weren’t a lot of guys who looked like they always cared.”

Things are vastly different this year, he said.

The team is led by Darwin Hernandez, whose goal in the second overtime decided a win for Whitman against Northport last week, and Robin Bolanos. Midfielder Mike Lorello, a sophomore, possesses the ball well and has made an impact on offense and defense.

“The main difference this year is that I get a sense that all the players actually care,” Zagorski said. “I think we can be league champions. I really think we can win our league. It was definitely a little insulting before the season, but you learn to prove your doubters wrong.”

The team has improved its transition play and has been following up on rebounds for goals, according to Hernandez.

"Throughout tryouts, we could see the team looked like it improved but I never thought we would start this well," said Hernandez, a senior. "It's been wonderful, really."