By Benito Vila
Losing experienced front line players late in the season is never a good way to go, especially when the playoffs are on the line. Pierson girls’ soccer saw leading scorer and senior captain Natalie Abbene go down late in a 2-1 win over Mercy in Mashashimuet Park Saturday, leaving them with four injured starters with six games to go.
None of the six games are easy, the top of the league dominating the match-ups. Yesterday, the Lady Whalers went west to Stony Brook in what coach Haley Luzim and her players alike agree is “a must win game” against the second-place 5-2-1 Lady Bears.
Pierson, at 4-4 in League VII and 7-4 overall, must have a .500 or better league record at the end of the season to reach the county tournament. Working against them right now is the prospect of playing the teams ahead of them without much of the roster that saw them get off to a such strong start.
Tomorrow the girls have a bit of a reprieve, winless Port Jefferson coming into the park for a 4:30 match. The schedule becomes significantly more difficult next week when the team travels to 5-2-1 Smithtown Christian next Wednesday and 5-2 Mattituck next Friday.
Things don’t ease up any after that, league-leading 6-1 Southold visiting October 27 and the season ending at Center Moriches, the only team to defeat the Lady Settlers.
Down, Up, Down, Up
Center Moriches came into the park last Thursday and made off with a 2-0 win, a pair of first half goals holding up despite a late Whaler rally. In dominating play in the first 45 minutes, the Lady Devils kept the ball on the Pierson end and punched in a rebound and a long kick on a lost possession. Coach Luzim said simply, “We didn’t play our best”, not willing to use injuries to her backfield as an excuse.
Finding her team short-handed even more on Saturday, another two starters off with their families for the holiday weekend and SAT testing keeping two other players from making the start, Coach Luzim made a set of much needed adjustments. “We had to bring up some JV players so we had enough players and some subs. We also mixed things up in the back by having Kaci Koehne become the sweeper and Kara Gengarelly and Charlotte Novak become the fullbacks.”
Those changes had the desired result, the Lady Whalers keeping the Lady Monarchs out of their end for the first half. That break found Pierson up 1-0, Koehne nailing a 20-yard shot with ten minutes remaining.
The second half saw Mercy make a game of it, a breakaway resulting in an early goal. Regrouping, the Whaler backfield found its rhythm again, Novak, Abbene and Amanda Busiello getting good shots on goal.
But it was Koehne that gave the Lady Whalers some breathing room, knocking in another 20-yarder with 15 minutes remaining. “That goal was big for us,” said Coach Luzim, “and it was nice to see Kaci go at the ball with that kind of confidence. Getting our scoring from the back was different, but it worked.”
The worst part of the win was the loss of Abbene who sprained her knee in a collision with a little over eight minutes remaining. That leaves the coach and the team without her offense and on-field leadership until sometime next week at best and perhaps even longer.