Players on the Pierson/Bridgehampton boys soccer team are excited for the upcoming season, if, and only if, to start with a fresh slate after a somewhat difficult go at it last season, with numerous injuries, COVID-19 quarantines and other various issues.
Still, through all of their issues, the Whalers managed to finish the pandemic-shortened season, 3-4-1, successfully petitioned to reach the Suffolk County Class C postseason, where they eventually played rival Southold in the county final, and suffered a 4-0 loss.
It was following that loss that head coach Peter Solow said he was very proud of the team, including its seven departing seniors, who managed a great deal of success even through all of it tribulations.
As he mentioned this past weekend, it’s nice that the team — which is returning a number of starters — gets to start with a fresh slate.
“We’ve had a really good first week of practice, both at the varsity and JV level,” he said. “We have more numbers coming out now than we’ve had the past couple of years. We look like we have two really solid teams, again both at JV and varsity. Of course things can change in terms of injuries or quarantines or whatever else we’ll have to deal with.”
Pierson junior Brandon Guanga, sophomore Ryder Esposito, senior Erik Guanga-Soliz and Bridgehampton senior Samuel Gonzalez are all returning to make up the Whalers defense. They’ll be playing in front of a new goalie in Gavin Gilbride, who came out for the team his senior year and is overtaking the position previously held the past few seasons by Nick Collage. Like Collage, Solow sees Gilbride as a tremendous athlete, similar to his older brother Tyler, who was one of the first goalies Solow coached when he took over the program.
“Tyler was one of the best goalies we’ve ever had here. He was one the fastest guys on the team and he was fearless. And as I tell Gavin all the time, he and Tyler could be brothers, because they are brothers.”
Also returning from last year’s county finalist team are seniors Daniel Martinez and Victor Paredes, juniors Javier Tubatan and Halsey Burton and sophomore David Moreno. Bridgehampton senior Anthony Cabrera is a welcomed addition, Solow said, and so are juniors Sawyer Davey and Robert Stewart. Seniors Josue Balladeras and Brandon Winenga, and juniors Enzo Merola, Ozzy Rodriguez, Luke Winenga and Nick Badilla round out the rest of the varsity roster.
“I think we have the potential of being a very good team,” Solow said. “We have all the pieces we need, but until we have some opportunity to play games together, we don’t really know.”
Pierson will compete in League VII this season, a mixed-classification league with ‘B’ teams Babylon, Center Moriches, Mattituck and Southampton, fellow ‘C’ teams Greenport, Port Jefferson and Southold and ‘D’ school Smithtown Christian. Senior-laden Greenport, Port Jeff, which is moving back down after being a ‘B’ school the past few years, and Southold are teams the Whalers will keep their eyes on when it comes to postseason play.
Pierson opens the season this Thursday, September 2, at Port Jeff at 4:30 p.m. and will play its season opener two days later behind Pierson High School against returning ‘B’ county champion Babylon at 10 a.m.