The “babies” of the Pierson/Bridgehampton field hockey team are coming of age.
Three eighth graders and an army of freshmen and sophomores combined with a quartet of senior talent as the Lady Whalers knocked off rival Port Jefferson, 1-0, at Patchogue-Medford High School on Tuesday to win the Suffolk County Class C Championship.
Pierson’s four seniors — Charlotte Johnson, Paige Schaefer, Sophia Bitis and Olivia Auperlee — have never lost a Suffolk final and now will charge ahead to face another rival in Carle Place, which won its sixth straight Nassau County championship on Sunday with a convincing 6-0 win over Oyster Bay.
The Lady Frogs (9-3) ended the Lady Whalers’ playoff run last year and the year before that, so for the third time to be a charm, Pierson (6-9) will have to overcome long odds when the teams meet again on Saturday, November 3, at Berner Middle School in Massapequa at 4:30 p.m.
“I think every year we come in with new people because we are such a small program,” said Johnson, Pierson’s star senior goalie who will play field hockey for Duke University next year. “But from the start of the year to the end of the year, the progression has been insane. When I was a freshman we did beat the Frogs, and I want redemption.”
Pierson head coach Kim Hannigan said the key to victory against Carle Place will be to spread the field and pass well, while also relying on the steady play of Johnson in goal.
“She’s definitely going to have to step up,” Hannigan said about Johnson, who posted her sixth shutout of the season on Tuesday. “I watched Carle Place on Sunday and they have some great players returning. If we capitalize on our opportunities and she plays like she’s going to play, I think we definitely have a shot this year.”
Bridgehampton’s Mahlia Hemby scored off an assist from Schaefer with 8:27 remaining in the first half. The Lady Whalers controlled possession most of the game, securing 19 corners to just one for Port Jefferson. But they also failed to convert on all but one of those chances, and the Lady Royals, as a result, had several opportunities to tie the score during a frenzied final few minutes of the game.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking because the intensity really picked up at the end,” said Johnson, who made three saves, including one on a hard hit shot she deflected with less than two minutes to play. “All I was thinking was watch the ball, set, focus and it just miraculously came to me.”
Schaefer controlled the midfield for much of the afternoon, but acknowledged that her team needs to improve its passing and control.
“I think the offense is going to have to come from trusting each other on the field,” said Schaefer, who was an All-State selection a season ago. “We need to get the ball to the middle and dish to the sides. And we need to shoot to the corners.”
Hannigan’s daughter, Miller Place eighth-grader Jaedyn Scarlatos, scored the game-winner for her team in double overtime to win the Suffolk County Class B title over Harborfields just moments before Pierson took the field.
Schaefer said her younger teammates, including eighth-grade standouts Emma Rascelles, Meredith Spolarich and Mia Gangemi, are also starting to find their way on the hockey field.
“They’re starting to realize what Pierson field hockey is all about and hopefully they’ll continue this on when they’re older,” Schaefer said, before boarding the bus for the trip home to Sag Harbor and another long-standing Pierson tradition — a championship parade down Main Street.