By Andrew Rudansky
The Whalers soccer home game against the Port Jefferson Royals was heralded as one of the biggest games of the season by both varsity head coach Peter Solow and many of the spectators in attendance at Mashashimuet Park. The game, held on Tuesday, October 11, did not disappoint, ending with a 2-2 tie after a contentious, rollercoaster match.
Before the game the Pierson/Bridgehampton varsity squad was ranked second in League VIII, trailing the Royals by only 1.5 games.
They had just come off of an impressive 3-1 win over (3-2-1) Greenport/Shelter Island on Monday, October 3. Juniors Oscar “Papi” Reinoso, captain Christian Bautista, and Jackson Marienfeld all tallied a score against Greenport/Shelter Island in an aggressive first-half push.
“Greenport/Shelter Island was a close game,” said Solow, “much closer than the final score would make it seem.”
Evidence of this comes from the eight saves that sophomore keeper Ian Barrett had to make to give Pierson the win. They would need a stellar performance from Barrett once again if they hoped to contain the highly prolific Royals.
The first half of Tuesday’s game against Port Jefferson had all the appearances of a blowout loss for the Whalers. Port Jefferson was already up 1-0 early in the game on a low bouncing goal, and was effectively keeping the game pinned in Whalers’ territory.
The Royals were most effective on the wings.
“It was a battle out there on the sidelines,” said Solow, who later commented that his two wingmen, sophomores Oliver Betts and Gavin O’Brien, held their own against a sometimes overbearing Royals strategy.
Port Jefferson had an opportunity to put the game out of reach, when a shot on goal rolled past Barrett and towards the net. Senior defender Sam Miller was able to get to the ball just in time, and kicked it out towards midfield, a quick thinking play late in the first half that helped keep the Whalers within striking distance.
“The guys that have been a rock for us the entire season have been the center of our defense…Sean Hartnett and Sam Miller,” said Solow after the game. “Both of those guys are really smart about how to play and what to do.”
While the first half of the match had the Whalers pinned in their own territory, the second half was a complete reversal in the tempo. After aggressive maneuvering, freshman striker Jack Fitzpatrick created a goal by kicking the ball across the Royals’ net. A Royals defender tried to head the ball back into the midfield but hit the ball at a wrong angle, sending it flying backwards and into the net.
“I thought Jack Fitzpatrick was solid today,” said Solow, “he came out in the beginning of the game and he was working his heart out.”
Pierson scored again on a penalty kick taken by Reinoso. The talented midfielder sent the ball around the wall of defenders and towards the goal on a lazy, bouncing kick. The keeper misread the spinning ball, which bounced off of a failed scoop and into the net.
Down 2-1, the Royals put the pressure back on the home team, at which point the match turned especially aggressive. The game’s officials tried to keep order, awarding both teams multiple penalty kicks for pushing, even handing out several yellow cards to overly aggressive players.
As the game was coming to a close, and a 2-1 Whalers victory within sight, Port Jefferson’s Blake Bohlen took the ball into Pierson’s penalty box and kicked it into the back of the net. The tying goal was scored with less than ten seconds in regulation.
Both teams decided to forego an overtime period, because it was getting too dark to play. The tie gave the Whalers a (4-1-1) league record, tying them for second place with Southold (4-1-1).
“This kind of thing happens,” said Solow about the last-minute heartbreaker. “You gotta play the entire game. The reality is that there are things technically that we needed to do and we didn’t do them.”
Solow said despite the missed opportunity to beat the first-seeded Royals, he was proud of the team.
“The guys put in a tremendous effort, they never gave up,” said Solow. “We played probably one of the best small school teams in the entire state, and we played them even. And I think that that is absolutely commendable.”
With this game out of the way, the team’s schedule looks to only get more challenging. Pierson next hosts Ross (1-4-1) today, October 13 at 4:30 p.m.
“I am dreading this game because every time we play Ross there is an intensity and nastiness in the game,” said Solow. “Yes, they have a terrible record, but that doesn’t matter, because for us they are going to play the game of their season. Am I looking forward to that? No.”
After that Pierson takes on Southold on Monday, October 17. The Southold Settlers are still the only team to beat the Whalers in a league game this season.