Lady Whalers Soccer Team Sparks Postseason Hope

Pierson senior Ellie Borzilleri dribbling the ball upfield against Smithtown Christian on October 3. Borzilleri finished with three goals, a hat trick, in an important 3-1 win for the Lady Whalers. Craig Macnaughton photos

In hot and humid conditions that felt more like August than an early evening in October, Pierson senior Ellie Borzilleri scored the crowing achievement of her high school soccer career as dusk settled on the back field at Mashashimuet Park last week.

Borzilleri’s hat trick on October 3 sparked the Pierson/Bridgehampton girls soccer team to a 3-1 win over Smithtown Christian, the only girls soccer program in Suffolk County at a school smaller than Pierson. The result represented more than just a singular accomplishment, however. The win put the Lady Whalers (4-5) in prime territory to petition Section XI, the county’s governing body of high school athletics, for a spot in the New York State Class C playoffs, which would begin for Pierson with a Southeast Regional final tentatively scheduled for November 8.

“I think this definitely solidifies our petition for regionals,” Pierson head coach Haley Luzim said after last week’s game. “We beat Amityville, we beat Wyandanch, we beat Hampton Bays and now we beat Smithtown Christian. Those are the teams we had to beat.”

Pierson’s Brooke Esposito works past a defender on October 3.

Pierson is the only Class C girls soccer program in Suffolk County, and aside from a few winnable games, the team faces a tough schedule against Division II competition, with games remaining against Bayport-Blue Point, Southampton, Mt. Sinai, Center Moriches and Hampton Bays in the regular-season finale on October 22.

The Lady Whalers during halftime of the win over Smithtown Christian celebrated Borzilleri and eight other seniors, a tradition usually reserved for the last home game of the season. But since Luzim and the seniors agreed that the game on the old field hockey pitch near the back of Mashashimuet Park was Pierson’s best shot at winning at home for the rest of the season, the decision was made to celebrate players who have been central to the program’s survival.

“It’s really the class of 2020 that started soccer and made it more popular,” said Borzilleri, who has played all four years of high school. “When we started we had to go to East Hampton and be on their team. My class got a team together so we could have a Pierson team.”

Other seniors on the Pierson roster include Kathryn Powell and Halle Kneeland, defenders who played key roles in the win over Smithtown Christian, as well as Chastin Giles, who is a key offensive threat. Carly Gulotta, Angela Lemus-Sandoval, Victoria Dudek-Tipton, Louise DiPaolo and Kiarra Fuentes round out the senior class for this year’s Lady Whalers.

“Without them, we probably would have folded a year or two ago,” said Luzim, who started the girls soccer program at Pierson more than 10 years ago before stepping away for a few years to raise a family. “Now we’re trying to build the program back up.

Ellie Borzilleri celebrates one of her three goals against Smithtown Christian.

“We’ve been doing free clinics for elementary girls every week,” she added. “It’s difficult because we don’t have a JV and we don’t have a middle school team. You have to give these seniors credit because they’re really helping Pierson for the future.”

Should their petition be successful, the Lady Whalers would have a layoff of nearly three weeks between the end of the regular season and the state regional final. Luzim said the team would work on passing and ball control in the meantime, and continue to build as they hope to prove they belong in the postseason.

“I’m sad because it’s the end of an era. But I’m happy it’s ending like this,” Borzilleri said. “We haven’t been able to get to the playoffs the past few years and because it’s my senior year we want to go to a state qualifier really bad.”

Pierson Boys Drop Key Game to Greenport

The season is slipping away for the Pierson/Bridgehampton boys soccer team as the reality of a second straight year without a playoff appearance settles in for the Whalers faithful.

Following a 5-1 loss to Class C rival Greenport on Friday, the team dropped to 1-10 on the season. But even as the losses pile up, the team’s head coach says the future remains bright even while the present feels somewhat dreary.

“We had that incredible game against Southampton,” Pierson head coach Peter Solow said about a 1-0 loss on October 2 to the undefeated Mariners, who as of Monday had outscored opponents 51-1 this season. “We had a great practice on Thursday, then went up to Greenport and played the worst game we’ve had all season and it was a game we had to win.”

The Whalers hosted Southold on Tuesday, which, along with Greenport and Pierson, is the only other Class C school in Suffolk County. For Pierson to have any chance at a playoff berth, it would have had to win that game plus run the table in its final four. The season closes with a home game against Mattituck on October 22.

“We’ve been very, very inconsistent,” Solow said on Monday. “If you looked at what we did against Southampton, if we were capable of playing that way every game, we’d have been a .500 team.”