Bryce Pelletier, Alex Tedesco, Julian Clement and Josh Peterson are the starting defensive unit for the Leavitt boys’ soccer team.

TURNER — Leavitt boys’ soccer coach Zac Conlogue doesn’t have to think much about his defense during games. And now that the regular season is over and only one playoff game guaranteed, he doesn’t have to put too much thought into his defense.

The Hornets have been buoyed by a starting back line made up of four seniors who are starting together for the second consecutive season. Alex Tedesco is at left back, Josh Peterson on the right, with Julian Clements at the top of the defensive diamond in the stopper position and Bryce Pelletier anchoring the unit at sweeper.

The quartet has been playing together since middle school, but Tedesco moving from striker to defense last year solidified the foursome.

“They’re big, they’re organized, they have a lot of chemistry because they’ve worked together for two years, and the team really looks up to them. Two of them (Bryce and Alex) are captains,” Conlogue said. “You know they’re going to get the job done and we’re not going to lose off a dumb mistake from someone. They’re very consistent. It’s nice to have.”

It didn’t take Tedesco long to get acclimated with his new position a year ago, thanks to the chemistry and communication that the classmates already had. An injury cut short his season, however, and he wasn’t part of a 1-0 loss to Greely in the playoffs.

“We had a lot better talking near the end of the season, which led us into the start of this season,” Pelletier said. “We were able to talk and communicate and shift well as a team.”

It’s that communication that has allowed the four seniors to be one as a defensive unit.

“Once you’ve been playing with the same group of guys for a really long time, you kind of understand what they’re going to do once they get the ball, so it’s easy to pick up where they left off,” Tedesco.

“I definitely like feeling like someone can cover me back, and knowing that it’s my job to cover someone if they step to a ball,” Peterson said.

Now that the defense has continuity, the group has been able to focus on becoming the start of the offense this year.

“We wanted to improve passing-wise,” Pelletier said. “Last year it was a lot more we get the ball out back and just kick it up the field. This year we definitely wanted to pass and swing it to the other side, without just sending it over the top. We just wanted to have better passing.”

“It starts in the back. They’ve been really on the guys every day in practice, finding feet,” Conlogue said. “And in the game it starts with them. They swing the ball around the back, they’re finding the center mids, they’re finding the strikers. It’s a huge reason why we’ve had the success, is these four have just been finding the feet and not just clearing the ball.”

Offense has been an issue for the Hornets, whose most lopsided wins have come by 4-1 scores. That hasn’t meant any added pressure on the defense, though. At least not in their eyes.

“I think it was more just a given that we needed to be very strong in back, we couldn’t let anything by, because we wanted to make sure we were doing our job so that our offense had an easier time, and not having to worry about everyone coming back to try to protect the goal,” Clements said.

The team allowed 25 goals in 14 games, which comes out to just under 1.8 goals per game. Nine of those goals came in 4-0 and 5-0 losses to KVAC powerhouse Maranacook, which means the Hornets allowed just 16 goals in their other 12 games (1.33 goals per game).

And those totals came with a goalie in net (senior Ben Hutchins) who didn’t know he would be filling that role until a couple weeks before the season started.

“Ben has gotten more and more confident every game, and he just makes the saves he needs to,” Conlogue said. “And these guys allow him to have a lot of success.”

The stakes will be higher now that the Hornets have turned their attention to the playoffs. The two games against Maranacook, as well as 2-1 and 2-0 losses to Lincoln Academy, have hardened them for a Class B South postseason full of perennially strong WMC programs.

“It’ll be difficult, be we usually pick up really quickly on how a team plays, if they try to pass and run through us or if they try to do overhead balls,” Pelletier said. “We’re really quick on picking up what they like to do and shutting that down and making them do something out of their ordinary.”

Tedesco, who missed out on last year’s lone playoff game, said he would like the team to at least advance a round farther this season. Peterson is just hoping to end on a high note.

“I’d like to go far, but I’d also like to definitely end my — pretty much my career probably in the best game that we’ve played as a team,” he said. “I don’t want to end on a game that we fall apart.”

Then when it all comes to an end, Conlogue will have to finally start worrying about his defense.

“It’s going to be tough. We’ve been working on the plan for next year. We’ve been building on that all year,” Conlogue said. “So it’s going to be tough, they’re a great group of guys, and they bring it every day in practice. We’re going to miss that for sure. It’s definitely going to be tough to replace. It’s not going to be easy at all.”

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