LAKEVILLE – Aiden Lehane didn’t know why he was in so much pain.
As the Apponequet boys’ basketball team battled for a playoff spot in 2020, Lehane was getting an x-ray.
“The MRI showed a stress fracture,” said Lehane, a three sports athlete for the Lakers. “All the tension and pressure fell on my C5 vertebrae and cracked it. It’s an overuse injury.
“Back injuries are intimidating. It’s really scary when you think of the back.
Fortunately, Lehane didn’t need surgery, but it would take her seven months to recover and even more time to get in shape for her final year of sports in high school.
“It put me on the sidelines for a while,” he admitted. “It was awful. It was a trip for sure.
“The convalescence lasted about seven months. I was released from the splint six months later, and four months after the injury, I was exercising.
Even though Lehane was battling the injury, he wasn’t sure what his future had in store for him in sports – beyond high school.
“It was a really tough conversation,” he said of a conversation with his parents, Daniel and Sonya Lehane. “They said, ‘What are your options? Do you still want to pursue this dream. Do you still want to pursue him? ‘ “
Lehane wasn’t ready to give up his dream of playing college football, so he devoted himself to training throughout the pandemic with Dominek Borden, who is set to play in Div. 2 Franklin Pierce football.
“Dom and I play on the same club team and have been close friends for quite some time,” said Lehane. “We would go there every morning at 7 am and we would practice. We mainly got in shape and also played football. This lasted pretty much all summer and most of the fall.
“Honestly, it was very intimidating at the start. You don’t know how good you are compared to others, but this training cemented that I could go after and do it. It was a great mental relief; the switch came on and I was good to go after that.
Lehane recently signed to play Div. Soccer 2 at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He will face Borden in the Northeast-10 conference.
“We will be opponents in the same division,” said Lehane.
Lehane said he really liked what he saw in Saint Anselm.
“When I walked around campus, I saw myself there,” Lehane said of his two visits. “You should have this feeling. Classroom sizes are smaller and it’s quite academically rigorous.
“The soccer team is in the middle of the pack, but it’s definitely rebuilding itself. They showed me what the program was all about and I really bought into it. They seemed to have a good atmosphere of victory. I felt like this was what I needed in college; succeed not only on the soccer field, but also in the classroom.
Lehane can’t remember a time when he didn’t play football.
“It was an integrated thing in my family,” said the 18-year-old Freetown resident. “As soon as I was able to stand up, I had a soccer ball at my feet. Of Portuguese origin, it is vital.
Lehane fondly remembers playing soccer with his family in his grandparents’ backyard.
“I fell in love with it when I first saw my grandparents playing it with my older cousins,” he said. “It’s something that anyone can bond with. I grew up in Fall River and football is purebred in Fall River. Everyone loves it and everyone plays it.
Lehane played for the Fall River United Travel Team and then for the NEFC for 14 years.
“I play the Fall River Nor’Easters with Dom and other players in the area,” said Lehane. “In general, playing against better competition is great for you. We won a few state championships in Rhode Island and went to Texas. These are experiences that I will keep with me.
Lehane had an immediate impact at Apponequet, where he played under former coach Trevor Gagnier, his first and second years.
“What jumped out at me very early on was the intensity and the effort in everything he did,” recalls Gagnier. “If it was defensive or midifield, he was right all over the place.
“He plays so hard and with so much effort that it jumped out at me when he was in first year. He set the example. He was an intense child. He demanded a lot from his teammates. Because of his work ethic, his teammates subscribed to it. For Aiden, these are the things that jumped out at me.
“You don’t have to show you’re the best player,” Lehane said. “You have to be the hardest worker. I am very competitive in everything I do. Everything is a competition for me.
Lehane’s versatility was an asset to Apponequet as he was able to play just about anywhere.
“I have been a companion when it comes to positions,” he said. “I started high school away for a year and a half and in second year I moved to the middle. Last year I played a more attacking role and this year I’m more of a striker.
“His IQ was phenomenal on the soccer field,” said Gagnier. “He improved his teammates. He had a great career. “
Apponequet boys’ soccer coach Tom Couet agreed, “He certainly plays soccer a lot and it has paid off in developing his skills on the field. He has been a versatile piece of our roster and has played in defensive, midfield and forward positions.
Couet fondly remembers a playoff game against Rockland in 2019.
“He scored the tying goal and the go-ahead goal,” he said of Apponequet’s 4-2 victory. “He’s been suffering from a lingering injury for two or more seasons, but he still went to great lengths to help the team win. His versatility, skills and level of competition will be the traits that will allow him to succeed at the next level. “