Lady Whalers Win on Senior Day and Set Stage for Postseason

Pierson senior Sophia Bitis and her coach, Kim Hannigan, during a pre-game ceremony for Senior Day on Thursday, October 18. Gavin Menu photos

Sometimes in the world of sports, it’s best to forget the past and focus on the immediate future. For a team stacked with young talent, including a handful of middle schoolers, that mentality suits the Pierson/Bridgehampton field hockey team just fine.

“I call them my babies,” Lady Whalers head coach Kim Hannigan said about her youngest players. “They’re just growing and developing into hockey players.”

Last Thursday was Senior Day at Pierson High School as four players — Paige Schaefer, Charlotte Johnson, Oliva Aupperlee and Sophia Bitis — were celebrated for their considerable contributions to the storied program. Following a brief pre-game ceremony, the Lady Whalers went to work and dominated Southampton in a 4-0 victory that erased the bad taste from a 1-0 overtime loss to the Lady Mariners on September 17.

Bitis was not in uniform for that game, still recovering from a serious knee injury suffered during lacrosse season. She returned to the field October 9 at Harborfields and has made an immediate impact on the field, along with junior Joyce Arbia, who also returned after missing several games with a hand injury.

Senior Paige Schaefer scored on a penalty stroke against Southampton on Friday.

“We came into the season with a younger team looking to develop and we’re finally starting to click,” said Schaefer, an All-State player from a season ago who has also missed some action this season. “We’re really trusting each other.”

Schaefer was clearly at full strength against Southampton and scored two goals to lead the Lady Whalers, with sophomore Brook Esposito and eighth-grader Meredith Spolarich also knocking in goals. Johnson, who was named All-Long Island by Newsday as a junior, was her usual self in goal on Friday and made eight saves to preserve her fifth shutout of the season.

Two of those shutouts came against Port Jefferson, the team Pierson (5-9) will face on October 30 for the Suffolk County Class C Championship. Game time is at 4 p.m. at Patchogue-Medford High School, with the winner advancing most likely to face Carle Place, which fell just short of a state championship after defeating Pierson in the Long Island final last year.

“Carle Place is going to be a challenge for us again,” Schaefer said. “What we need to do is focus on our team. In years past, we were more focused on what they were going to do. We need to focus on how we’re going to beat Carle Place, not how Carle Place is going to play.”

As for Port Jeff, Hannigan said the team needs to play smart like it did against Southampton, move the ball, space the field and finish at the goal.

“We played them twice already this year so we know what they have,” she said about the Lady Royals, who finished just behind Pierson in the division standings. “The key for us is to finish.”

The Pierson/Bridgehampton field hockey team gathered prior to facing Southampton last week.