SOUTH YARMOUTH — Junior center back Hiroto Watanabe is in his third year playing boys’ varsity soccer at Dennis-Yarmouth. In his first two seasons, the team went 1-30-1.
“The last two years, D-Y soccer was the laughingstock of the school,” he said. “It was a shock when we won a game last year.”
Senior Connor Coughlan, who has played varsity for two years, was frustrated after his first season when the Dolphins posted a 1-14-1 record.
“Last year, it was tough. It was full of kids that didn’t really have a desire to be here and didn’t really look out for each other, either,” Coughlan said. “They didn’t care how their teammates did — they just cared about how they did. It was horrible.”
But there has been a coaching change for 2013. Bill Altieri, who has been coaching soccer since 1971, stepped in after a three-year stint at Barnstable. Before learning of the coaching vacancy at Dennis-Yarmouth, he had informally retired.
“I had no intention of coaching again,” said Altieri.
Although Altieri has only been with the Dolphins for seven games, his style has boosted the team to heights the players haven’t experienced.
Dennis-Yarmouth defeated Falmouth, 3-2, in its opening game, behind a hat trick from Coughlan. It was the Dolphins’ second win in three seasons, and Altieri noticed the jubilant response from his team.
“After the game the players could not believe that they had won,” he said. “They never believed that they had it in them. Looking at them sitting on the bench, anyone could see how emotionally drained they were and yet extremely happy at the same time.
“They were so elated. I think they didn’t believe it.”
And it wasn’t just the players who were amped. Classmates noticed, too.
“The feeling was great,” Coughlan said. “Everyone was impressed the next day at school.”
But the story had only just begun. After starting the season 2-1 — the Dolphins lost, 1-0, against Plymouth North, followed by a 3-0 victory at Plymouth South — Sandwich came to town.
“It’s been 10 years since we beat Sandwich,” athletic director Michael Grenier said.
The Dolphins were up for the challenge, though. With the score tied at 1-1 and less than two minutes remaining, Coughlan scored the goal that gave the team a victory it won’t soon forget.
“The Sandwich game was a monumental win,” said Coughlan. “I honestly have no idea when the last time we beat them was. Sandwich has always been known as a serious threat.”
“[The Sandwich win] was huge,” Altieri added. “Now they know what they’re capable of.”
Since that win, the Dolphins have lost three straight, leaving their at 3-4. But the team’s confidence remains high.
“I think we are much more confident than last year,” Watanabe on Wednesday. “We’ve lost the last two games, and we got outplayed. But I feel we definitely have the ability to fight back, and the next time we play those teams it’s going to be much more competitive.”
Altieri’s focus at the beginning of the season was to get the players to view things differently.
“All I ask is that they have an open mind because there’s many different ways to solve a problem,” Altieri said. “If you’re conditioned to solve a problem one way, you’re missing the boat. And they did that. They opened their minds.”
Now, after three consecutive losses, Altieri wants to see the team’s new mental strength come into play.
“I knew it was going to be very difficult. I always thought they had potential, but they needed to come together,” Altieri said. “They need to be able to face adversity. There’s no shame in losing, but it’s how you react to it.
“By winning a few games, they’re going to think they have a chance.”
Games to watch
Framingham at Brookline, Tuesday, 4 p.m. — The eighth-ranked Flyers (7-1) travel to Brookline for what could be a trap game. The Warriors (5-2-1) last lost to Needham in a close one, 1-0. After playing confidently against Newton North over the weekend in a 2-0 win, Brookline could test Framingham.
St. John’s Prep at Wilmington, Saturday, 3 p.m. — The No. 4 Eagles have eight straight since tying No. 8 Masconomet, 1-1, in their opener. But the Wildcats (7-1) have surged to No. 16 in this week’s Top 20, winning seven straight after an opening loss to Reading. The Eagles will have their work cut out for them if they want to stay unbeaten.