2016-12-02 / Sports

MVP Whitten led young Rams

By ALEX SPONSELLER
Associate Sports Editor

The Kennebunk boys soccer team entered the year as one of the conference’s youngest groups as a team that consisted of 12 freshman.

Luckily for the Rams, senior captain Brenden Whitten stepped up as a leader both on and off the field and helped guide this young club to the postseason, and even getting to play a playoff game at home.

On the field, Whitten proved to be one of the conference’s most clutch players, leading the Rams when things got shaky.

“Brenden, or Whit as we affectionately call him, was an obvious talent on the field. He had an innate ability to find back of the net. He worked hard to put himself in dangerous positions, he worked off the ball, and was ruthless inside the 18,” said Kennebunk coach Greg Cavanaugh. “When we needed someone to make a play, we knew Whit would be there for us.”  

As an inexperienced team, the Rams faced adversity early on while their players adjusted to the varsity level of play. Thankfully, Whitten helped the young players remain calm and focused.

“We had a remarkably young group with 12 freshman seeing varsity minutes. There were some growing pains along the way this year,” said Cavanaugh. “We’d have a big win followed by a lopsided loss. It would be easy to get discouraged, especially for seniors to check out mentally and give up. Whit kept us positive and demonstrated that sometimes you just have to grind through adversity.”

Whitten quickly emerged as a leader, beginning by organizing summer meetings and team-friendly activities to get the new players acclimated.

“He challenged me as a coach to be at my best and be accountable.  Personally, it helped having him present for so many workouts and summer league games during those summer months. He set the tone for the year and really made our young guys feel like they belong.”

Whitten did have some help guiding the youthful Rams, with fellow senior captain Simon Butterfield there as well. Cavanaugh was impressed by both players’ mental toughness during their four-year tenures that included multiple coaches and major roster turnover.

“I don’t think I can speak about what a great leader Whit has been without recognizing Simon Butterfield,” said Cavanaugh. “These two were the only thing constant in the past four years at KHS. They had three different coaches in four years. In their senior year, we asked them to lead a team with a new coach and a dozen freshman being asked to play at the varsity level. Incredible to realize that they lead this team to earn a home playoff game and improve upon 2015’s win total.”

Cavanaugh expects Whitten’s influence to be long-lasting, as 2016’s freshman will take the lessons learned from him throughout their next three years.

“I don’t think there will be a void in the sense that Whit has already instilled all these great core values in our guys. The mark of a great player is one that paves the way for the success of his successors,” said Cavanaugh. “The positive residual effect he will have on this program is an impressive legacy to leave. I don’t think he realizes what a profound impact he has made on the next generation of Kennebunk soccer players. I can’t overstate that enough.”

— Associate Sports Editor Alex Sponseller can be reached at asponseller@journaltribune.com or at 282-1535 ext. 323. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.

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