By Benito Vila
While winning makes playing easy, losses often teach coaches and players more. That undesired outcome tends to reveal where attention has been lacking and calls out exactly what needs to be done.
So it was for Pierson’s varsity field hockey team Tuesday, the bus ride home from Miller Place after a 4-0 loss being a time to talk about what needs to change as the Lady Whalers prepare to play Southampton, Port Jefferson and Shoreham-Wading River in the next ten days.
Those three rivals are typically tough match-ups year-in, year-out, the girls historically going against the Lady Mariners for local bragging rights, the Lady Royals for the county Class C title and the Lady Wildcats for the conference title.
None of this year’s Lady Whalers field hockey team went to Miller Place Tuesday looking for insights on their game. They went in set to rip apart the Lady Panthers the way they had Hampton Bays in their home opener in Mashashimuet Park last Thursday, an entirely one-sided 8-0 blowout.
But that was not to be; where Pierson had nearly 40 shots on goal against Hampton Bays Thursday, the girls managed only four shots in Miller Place. And the Lady Whalers had a whole different experience on defense, too, the Lady Panthers coming in to take 22 shots after the Lady Baymen were not able to get one.
Yesterday, Lady Whaler coach Shannon Judge said, “We learned a lot, to say the least. A lot of our problem came down to simple mis-positioning. That blatantly revealed a weakness in our aggressiveness in going to the ball on defense. Fortunately we have the entire season in front of us to correct that.”
“I made some changes throughout the game but we never had the time to recover. We were consistently fighting up Miller Place’s strong side (the right side for them), which made it difficult for our offense to get started.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming matches, Coach Judge said, “We are going to work on some position changes and, as always, our defensive positioning. I expect the girls to use the Miller Place game as a learning tool. We will keep working on transferring the ball and building the offense as a unit in practice. We can take the next three games if the girls learn from where they came up short Tuesday.”
Two of Miller Place’s goals were scored on corners and Coach Judge also promised to make corner defense a priority in practice, but nonetheless the Lady Panthers continue to be a constant source of pain for Pierson. Only a tie in 2004 has kept the Lady Whalers from losing each of the last ten meetings.
This year’s team is still intent on making up for the two losses to Miller Place last fall, the sole blemishes in a 14-2 campaign. Senior co-captain Aly Bori said Tuesday night, “We played sloppy and too much like individuals. But our game is going to come around and we’ll get them when they come here [October 9].”
Last Thursday was definitely different in every way for the girls, who came out so excited and so loud they could be heard clearly throughout the park. Two minutes into the game that enthusiasm and kinship turned into points, Jessica Warne sending in a pass to her sister Lindsay Warne, who knocked it in for a 1-0 Pierson lead.
Before the game was out, six more Lady Whalers had scored with five different girls notching assists. Kasey Gilbride scored her first two varsity goals, the first on an assist from co-captain Alexa Lantiere to make the score 2-0 and the second on a penalty shot that pushed Pierson up 6-0.
Also scoring were Bori, Lantiere, Sarah Barrett, Lindsay Warne, and Sophie Gianis. Barrett, Lindsay Warne and Lilah Yardley had the assists.
Afterwards, Coach Judge said, “It was a good game. We played as a team and used the pass well. We kept the pressure on the whole game and never let up.”
The Lady Whalers are away this week, at Southampton today at 4 p.m. and at Port Jefferson tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. The next home game is Wednesday against Riverhead at 4:30 p.m. with highly touted Shoreham-Wading River here for Homecoming next Saturday at 11 a.m.
The sixth annual Pierson Alumni field hockey game is scheduled for 3 p.m. next Saturday, with a warm-up immediately following the Lady Whaler-Lady Wildcat JV match that is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m.