By Mike May
The Wellington High School boys varsity soccer team recently concluded a standout season, despite the fact that it came to an unexpected end after an upset — in penalty kicks — to Forest Hill High School in the Class 7A, District 10 tournament.
According to Wolverine head coach Chris Carrera, there were two seniors on the team whose leadership on and off the field is a key reason the team won 80 percent of its regular season games.
Wellington’s 16-4 regular season was outstanding. The Wolverines finished first in its six-team district, which includes John I. Leonard, Jupiter, Palm Beach Central, Palm Beach Lakes and Forest Hill high schools.
Those two senior leaders were Dustin Nicholson and Joel Tojil. Nicholson has played varsity soccer at Wellington since he was a sophomore, while Tojil joined the varsity squad just this year.
Both players knew the team’s potential and what needed to be done in order for the season to be a success. That made Carrera’s job easier as a coach.
“Dustin was one of our captains, and he took charge when it was time to get warmed up for practice and/or games,” Carrera said. “He made sure that everyone was warming up the correct way, and that everyone took warming up seriously.”
In many respects, Nicholson was an extension of his coach.
“If I needed someone to help run a drill during practice, Dustin was one of the team leaders I looked to, and the rest of the players looked up to him, as well,” Carrera added.
During games, Nicholson played the role of a field general.
“He was one of my most solid players, and he kept the team at ease,” Carrera said. “Dustin had a calm demeanor on the field. He kept everyone relaxed because they knew that if he was going in to challenge a ball, he was going to walk away with the ball and make a safe play. He played hard but fair, every time. He made the job look so easy at times. He didn’t crumble under pressure, and this helped the entire team.”
Tojil also played and practiced like a leader for the entire season, beginning with the pre-season back in October.
“He was one of those players who always arrived early and was one of the last ones to leave practice,” Carrera recalled. “Although Joel was not one of the captains on the field, many players looked up to him because he was very dedicated at both practices and in games.”
Tojil had that inner sense of when he could relax and when he needed to be serious.
“He was one of the players who liked to have fun during practice, but took every drill seriously,” Carrera said. “When it was time to have fun, he was all about it, and when it was time to be serious, he was very focused.”
If there are two words to describe Tojil, they are tenacious and smart.
“On the field, Joel is like that little warrior who never gives up,” Carrera said. “He was always battling to win the ball back for us, and as soon as he got the ball back, he was always looking to make a pass to someone else who might have an opportunity to score. He has an incredible vision of the field and is one of the main reasons why we won so many games this season.”
One of Tojil’s strongest qualities was his desire to lead by example.
“His willingness and effort to battle every ball in the midfield and feed our forwards helped us a lot this year,” Carrera said. “He is one of the hardest workers you will ever see on the soccer field. He was also a player that our team looked to when they needed that little push on the field. They saw him fighting for every ball, and that became contagious.”
Both players left a lasting impression on their head coach. “I will miss both of these players next year, but I was glad they were part of the team this year,” Carrera said.
While it’s great getting some recognition, both Nicholson and Tojil enjoyed the simplicity of their Wolverine soccer experience.
“My job was to make plays and help our team score goals,” said Tojil, whose bilingual talents allowed him to communicate in both Spanish and English to his teammates.
“My job was to organize our team from the back and get the ball to the midfield,” said Nicholson, who played as a forward on Senior Night when he scored a hat trick against the Dreyfoos School of the Arts.
Both players enjoyed their roles on the team and relished working with one another.
“Joel and I had a special connection on the field,” Nicholson added.
They also had a special connection with their head coach.
“Dustin and Joel are two of the most solid players I have had the pleasure to coach over the past couple of years,” Carrera said.
Two standout players helping their team achieve a standout season.