By Gavin Menu
A stiff north wind at Islip High School could’ve blown the result of Saturday’s Suffolk County Class C boys soccer final in either direction. Luckily for the Whalers, Jorge Alvarado’s first-half goal with the wind at his back stood up for 60 plus minutes and Pierson/Bridgehampton claimed its second consecutive county championship with a 1-0 win over Southold.
Pierson will play a Class C Southeast Regional Final on Saturday, November 4, at Diamond in the Pines Park in Coram at 2 p.m. against S.S. Seward, the same team that ended Pierson’s season one year ago. Whoever escapes the regional final will advance to the New York State Final Four at Middletown High School on November 11 and 12.
On Saturday, Pierson was on the attack for much of the early going and broke through with 23:36 remaining in the first half on a soft pass from Luis Padilla that banged into the back of the net off the head of Alvarado, who has been a potent scorer for the Whalers this season.
The second half was a mirror image of the first, except the Settlers were on the attack with gusting wind at their backs. Senior goalie Will Martin made a diving save midway through the second half, and a moment later senior defender Josue Cruz left the game with a possible concussion. Padilla was also knocked from the game with severe leg cramps with less than 20 minutes remaining, and Santi Gonzalez and Javi Lopez were practically carried off the turf as the game ended at Islip.
“That was the longest half we ever played,” said Martin, who needed six saves to preserve the shutout for Pierson (16-1-1). “We were on the defensive the entire time, just trying to clear it out. And it worked.”
Pierson head coach Peter Solow said after the second half was reminiscent of his team’s last meeting with Southold, when Cruz also left the game with an apparent head or neck injury. The lineup had to be shuffled, and Pierson gave up a late goal in a 1-1 tie.
“This game could have gone either way,” Solow said. “Even though they were pressing us, we didn’t fall apart.”
Alex Weseley, who normally plays midfield, moved to the back line with the team’s defensive stalwarts in Gonzalez, Borys Zasada and Ariel Quiros. When Padilla was knocked from the game, senior Sam Warne, who normally plays the left wing, had to move to centerfield.
“Sam did a phenomenal job at the end of the game cleaning everything up that was in the middle,” said Solow, who pointed out that despite being on the defensive, his team had several quality scoring chances that failed to deliver.
“We lost guys, and because we lost guys we had to compensate for that and this wind was an incredible factor,” Solow added. “We’re very fortunate that we came out of this with a victory. When you get in the playoffs, and when you’re playing a team like that, you have to cut down on your mistakes and you have to take advantage of every opportunity.
“I think these guys could be a special team,” Solow added, “but we have a lot of work to do.”