By Gavin Menu
The Pierson boys soccer team has returned to practice 10 months after an unsettling loss to Southold in the Suffolk County Class C Championship, with a new group of Whalers looking to erase the sour memory and instead build upon the program’s undefeated League VIII title from a season ago.
There have been some roadblocks early on, however, according to head coach Peter Solow, who, on Tuesday, said the team will begin a grueling schedule this week after having lost several players in the preseason.
“It’s been a little rough,” Solow said about the first week of practice. “A couple kids decided to play other sports. Jon Lopez, who is a great kid, went to private school. A series of unfortunate events has made the beginning of our season brutal.”
Which is not to say optimism is not running high for the Whalers, who will begin their season with the annual Bridgehampton National Bank Tournament tomorrow night, September 5, at Southampton at 6:30 p.m.
“The guys that we have are a really solid bunch of guys in terms of who they are and in terms of soccer,” Solow said. “My big question mark this year is going to be did they learn from last year.”
Returning to lead the Whalers are seniors Jack Fitzpatrick, who was a scoring machine last year with 20 goals, including both goals in the team’s 5-2 loss to Southold in the county final, and Johnny Chisholm, whose speed and athleticism are huge assets. Senior Duncan Bennett, juniors Andrew James and Jesus Badilla, sophomore Charlie Pintado and freshman Sam Warne are other key players expected to contribute immediately.
Chase Zimmerman will be the team’s first-year goalie, taking over the job after Jack Schleicher, who was expected to start in goal, decided to run cross country instead.
“He’s doing a good job for us. He just needs experience,” Solow said about Zimmerman, who is only a sophomore. “We needed somebody and he volunteered.”
Following Friday night’s game at Southampton, the Whalers will visit Center Moriches on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in the conclusion of the BNB Tournament, which also includes Greenport. The League VIII season will begin on Thursday, September 11, with a 4:30 p.m. game at Stony Brook, followed by a non-league game against Westhampton on September 13.
And even more strong tests will follow, with two straight games against Southold and Port Jefferson, a Class B school, which after one season in League VII dropped back to League VIII a year removed from winning back-to-back state titles.
“The beginning of our season is brutal, and we’re really up against it,” Solow said, “We don’t have one easy game this season.”
When asked what the key would be for this group of Whalers to take the next step and follow last year’s league championship with a county, or even Long Island titles, he did not hesitate.
“There’s always these external things like injuries and the fact that a couple guys I had penciled in as starters decided not to play for us,” Solow said. “But what I talked to the kids about is that it wasn’t who we played last year that defeated us. We defeated ourselves.
“We can’t do anything about who we’re playing,” he added, “but we can prepare ourselves the best we can.”
Other Whalers Sports in Action This Week
Pierson High School’s defending New York State Class C Champion field hockey team will return to action with a game at Greenport/Southold on Monday, September 8, at 4:30 p.m. The team’s first home game will be next Thursday, September 11 against Port Jefferson at 4:30 p.m.
The Lady Whalers return a strong core of players from last year’s championship team, including seniors Rachel Miller and Phiona Vall, junior Erica Selyukova, sophomores Ana Sherwood, Allura Leggard and Cali Cafiero and freshman Holly Schleicher, who saw action in the postseason as an eighth-grader last year.
The Pierson/Bridgehampton girls volleyball team, which reached the playoffs last season, will begin the 2014 campaign on Friday, September 5, with a non-league game at Hampton Bays at 4:30 p.m. The girls first home game will come against Greenport/Southold on Wednesday, September 10, at 4 p.m.
Girls soccer will play a non-league game at East Hampton on Saturday at 10 a.m. and girls tennis, which teams up with East Hampton and Bridgehampton, will open the year at Westhampton on Monday, September 8, at 4 p.m.
The boys golf team, which has been competitive in League VIII over the last several years, will begin its season with a match against Westhampton at the Noyac Golf Club on Tuesday, September 9, at 3:30 p.m.
Pierson’s boys and girls cross country teams have been practicing but will not begin competition until September 30 when they face Port Jefferson in Mashashimuet Park at 4 p.m.