By Benito Vila
The time comes in every season when it’s clear that a team has lost more times than it has won. The reaction to that experience often determines what comes next for the team collectively and for its players and coaches individually.
While the options are fairly obvious: keep playing, do more work, learn; or: feign apathy, shrug it off, forget. The right approach is not always easy to choose, especially in high school.
Regardless of the level of play, each coach, each player and each team deals with disappointment differently. Some replay the moments when things got away and use that as motivation; some talk about them continuously and never find their peace.
Many never own up to their own limitations and keep finding them elsewhere, on or off a field; some accept what’s happened, promise themselves “never again” and always find ways to be better prepared regardless of the activity. The response can be what defines “a winner” or “a loser”, what creates “character” or its antithesis.
For this year’s Pierson boys’ varsity soccer squad leaving Mashashimuet Park was one of those moments. A season that saw a 0-5 start, followed by a 3-2 stretch that created hope, hit a wall Tuesday in a 6-0 loss to Port Jefferson that eliminated the Whalers from post-season play.
Coach Donnelly McGovern said afterwards, “This puts us all in a spot we haven’t been in a while. We have three games left to get three victories. I know for most of us, it’s not about just having a good time; it’s about winning some games.”
“We want to finish strong and we can. I’m looking to see everyone stay focused and keep working on getting better. What we do from here on in says a lot about what we’re about.”
Caught on the Counter
The majority of the goals against Pierson Tuesday came on quick counterattacks on balls the Whalers were collectively unable to clear away from the goal. Coach McGovern was straightforward, saying, “They beat us to the ball and got behind us. They hit their guys and finished.”
It was the same outcome last Friday in Greenport, with the Whalers falling behind 2-0 in the first half, battling back to tie in the second, only to have the Porters pull away 4-2. Coach McGovern described it as a “game we could have had, but they were able to hit their target guy and he was able to create opportunities for himself and his teammates.”
Three to Go
The rest of the schedule keeps the boys close to home. This afternoon the team meets Mercy in the park. On Monday the last road game takes them to Ross, while on Wednesday Stony Brook comes into the park to close out the season. All three games start at 4:30 p.m.
By scoring Friday, Christian Gonzales recorded his team-leading eighth goal. Meanwhile, Jake Federico fired in his first, becoming the ninth Pierson player to find the back of the net this year. While the last three games give even more players a chance to score, keeper Mark Mahoney goes in with a league-leading 88 saves and a respectable 85%-plus save percentage.
The most recent games have seen Tyler Gilbride emerge as a defensive bright spot, drawing assignments on top scores and effectively containing their play. In praising Gilbride’s effort Coach McGovern said, “He’s really matured and we just haven’t supported that level of play enough.”