By ALEX SPONSELLER
Despite a tough start to the season, the Johnston boys soccer team would cruise down the stretch and advance to the Division III semifinals, where they would fall 1-0 to eventual champion Pilgrim.
Although the Panthers played stout defense throughout the season and in the semifinals, Johnston coach Dan Mazzulla felt that the lack of scoring power was what caused the Panthers to fall.
“Our problem was that we just couldn’t score on a regular basis. Not having that constant threat to score was our downfall, not having enough shots on goal. We worked hard to score but we didn’t have a dominant striker. We played Pilgrim hard though, we were very happy,” said Mazzulla.
Johnston finished the 2017 season with a preliminary round defeat. Although the Panthers fell short of their ultimate goal, Mazzulla and company were excited to take a step forward this fall.
“We started off a little shaky but finished good. They finally got it, they finally concentrated on what they needed to do and realized that they could be a good team if they played together. We wanted them to play hard and with good sportsmanship and they bought into that. We took a big step forward this year and played some great soccer down the stretch,” said Mazzulla. “I told the guys from the beginning of the year that they were very talented players, and if they learned how to play together, stay together, then they would do very well. That’s exactly what they did, we blended some new players and some experienced players and we had a very good season, I’m very proud of them.”
The Panthers will now flip the page to the 2019 season. Although they will be saying bye to handful of their senior leaders, they will still return much of the same core and hope to win two more games in the postseason.
“Our entire defensive backfield will be back next year with a few guys up front. We have a proven goalkeeper. We’re looking forward to next year,” said Mazzulla.