By Benito Vila
In high school sports, it would seem that the playoffs are everything. It’s what coaches and kids talk about at the outset, knowing that more wins than losses opens up an opportunity to play for the county title.
In the course of the season, certain things happen that often create more meaningful experiences for the team. For the Lady Whalers, it’s been learning how to compete despite injuries to more than a third of the starting unit; for the Whalers, it’s been how to overcome disappointment despite best efforts, four one-goal losses keeping them from the top of the league.
The Pierson girls came off the field in Mashashimuet Park Tuesday with a 2-1 loss, darkness cutting short a late rally that allowed league-leading Southold to improve to 11-2. The ladies are now 5-8 in league play going into tonight’s regular season finale at Center Moriches, a match set to start under the lights at 6:30 p.m.
There is still a playoff hope for the Pierson girls. They hold a 4-2 mark against similar sized Class C schools in a league made up of mostly Class B schools.
Pierson athletic director Monty Granger and varsity coach Haley Luzim plan to submit an appeal to the county seeding committee. A response is expected at the start of next week.
“We’ve earned the opportunity and it’s within the rules; the more kids play, the more they’ll learn,” said Granger at Tuesday’s game. “We stand a good chance,” added Coach Luzim. “Our record against Class C and our win over Mattituck, one of the best schools in the county, makes a good case for us.”
If the girls are to get in, the tournament schedule calls for them to play 7-5-1 Stony Brook next Friday at Diamond Behind the Pines in Coram at 4 p.m. The winner earns the county title and moves into the state tournament. Stony Brook swept its matches with Pierson this fall, winning 3-1 in the park and 5-0 there.
A 2-0 loss in Port Jefferson October 15 left the Pierson boys at 3-5-1, and somewhat out of the playoff picture. A pair of wins changed all that, the Whalers outscoring Ross there 3-0 Friday and Stony Brook 4-1 Monday.
The Whalers headed to Mashashimuet Park yesterday looking to up-end league-leading Southold and clinch a berth in the county tournament. The weather gods had other plans, sending in a late day rain that has pushed the game back to this afternoon at 4:30 p.m.
The boys need either a tie or a win today to play on, their recent charge moving them up in the standings and improving their mark to 5-5-1. Today’s match is also a chance to redeem a 2-1 overtime loss to the Settlers earlier this fall.
The game today will be the last home soccer game for six seniors, Mark Mahoney, Jake Federico, Jeff Schimmer, Christian Gonzales, Mike Remkus and Cesar Banados due to share the moment with family before the start of the contest.
Ladies Go Out Strong
Lady Whaler seniors and their biggest fans had a similar event before their match with Southold. Natalie Abbene, Kara Gengarelly, Charlotte Novak, Kathryn Heine, Olivia Broich and Alexia Faraguna gave their parents flowers. The parents came prepared with hot chocolate and cupcakes, anticipating the cold that came on at sunset.
The overcast twilight had an affect on the game, the referees ending the contest with 5:39 remaining with Pierson battling to tie the score. Abbene scored the lone Lady Whaler goal with a near half-field shot to cut into a 2-0 Southold lead.
Pierson goalie Annie Osiecki made several athletic saves to keep the Lady Settlers from running off with the game. Coach Luzim said afterwards, “We played well. We had our chances. We just weren’t able to finish until the end.”
The coach had much the same thing to say about the 3-0 loss in Mattituck Friday, noting, “We played well but couldn’t get it in. They scored with 10 minutes left in the first half and then scored two in the last five minutes on the second.”
“We didn’t capitalize and they got some by us, but we all walked off the field knowing we’d played well. We had Natalie back and that made a difference. It would have been nice to have Emily [Hinz], Emma [Ferrera] and Meggie [Freund], but we’re going out strong with who we have.”
Whalers Roll Bears
In getting by Ross Friday, Coach McGovern saw his boys come off the field with renewed confidence. He mixed up the Whaler line-up in the second half, using back-up goalie Seamus Doyle in the field and putting mid-fielder Tyler Gilbride in goal. The move came off well, Doyle scoring his first and Gilbride turning away three shots, the two juniors getting experience for next year.
All that positive energy made a difference Monday in a comeback win over the Bears, who had beaten Pierson earlier in the season. Coach McGovern summed up the game, reporting, “It was a great win after having them get by us 1-0 on their field. Jake showed great composure in scoring under pressure to tie. Gavin Kudlak’s goal with five minutes to go in the first half proved to be the game winner.”
“Gavin did a great job placing the ball into the back of the net from just outside the box. Seamus Doyle battled for a loose ball and put the ball in the net and Eduardo Reinoso beat a defender and hit a nice right-footed shot to close out the scoring. The boys played with desire and heart the entire match.”
Looking ahead to today’s finale, Coach McGovern added, “We will need that same heart and desire against Southold. We will have to run smart not just hard in order to be successful.”
Jake Federico was also encouraged by Monday’s outcome saying afterwards, “We can win without a doubt in my mind, as long as we put our hearts to it. We can go all the way. When we played Southold at the beginning of the season, we came out rough and then turned on our game. It’s too bad we let them get away in overtime. Now, we’ll have to see how it goes.”