Pierson Field Hockey Dominates Carle Place To Win Long Island Class C Championship And Advance To States

Pierson captains, from left, Meredith Spolarich, Caroline Canavan, Madison Stuckart and Micky Wilson race the Long Island Championship plaque over to their teammates to celebrate. DREW BUDD

It was clear from the opening whistle on Sunday afternoon that the Pierson field hockey team wasn’t going to take what was another opportunity for a Long Island Championship for granted.

Pierson senior Caroline Canavan scored a pair of goals in Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Carle Place in the Long Island Championship. DREW BUDD

Not even halfway into the first quarter, Pierson senior co-captain Caroline Canavan scored off a pass from junior co-captain Meredith Spolarich to grab an early 1-0 lead, and the Whalers went on to defeat Carle Place in dominant fashion, 3-0, at Centereach High School to claim their first Long Island title since 2015.

The victory also advanced Pierson to the New York State Championships, which are this Saturday and Sunday back at Centereach High School. The Whalers will face Whitney Point (Section IV-Southern Tier) in the state semifinal at noon on Saturday and if they win would advance to the state championship game on Sunday back at Centereach at 12:30 p.m.

Canavan found the back of the cage again about five minutes into the second quarter on an assist from junior Eleana Merola, who potted Pierson’s third goal of the game just over two minutes into the third quarter. But it was Canavan’s two goals that seemed to dictate the game early on.

“It was an amazing feeling,” Canavan said of scoring those goals. “I’m so happy for us. Everything we did to work to get those goals, it was not just me, it was all of us.

“This is great,” she added of winning a Long Island Championship. “I’m so happy to be here, and now that COVID has calmed down, now we have the chance to actually go to states after it was canceled last year. I’m so happy for us.”

The Whalers had been in the same position they were in on Sunday plenty of times in the past but more often than not Carle Place had been in their way of advancing. Most recently, the Frogs defeated the Whalers with a late goal in a tight 2-1 decision in last season’s pandemic-shortened spring campaign.

Pierson head coach Nina Hemby, who admitted she got a little teary-eyed as the final whistle blew on Sunday, said her team certainly put in the work to earn the victory on Sunday.

The Whalers celebrate their first Long Island Championship since 2015 after defeating Carle Place, 3-0, at Centereach High School on Sunday. DREW BUDD

“We’ve been here a few times. I felt last year we had a great team and it really felt doable,” she said. “I think that we have worked hard, we put in the work this year, we put in the precision, we put in the cardio. We all took our IQs and moved it up a level as a group so everyone is all on the same page.

“I’m the coach but they’re the team and I feel like we’re all together, we’re all a part of something,” Hemby continued. “I want it as bad as they do. The feeling that I had for the game is we’re ready and I’m ready and I can feel they’re ready, so to do it and see it all come together and be the team that I know we are is just very emotional and I’m really happy and really proud of my girls.”

Pierson’s defense was once again stout on Sunday, and in its two playoff games — including the 4-0 victory over Greenport/Southold in the Suffolk County Championship on November 1 — it has kept both of its opponents scoreless. The further that point, the Whalers only allowed one shot to Greenport and two to Carle Place.

“We’ve been working super, super hard for this,” junior Mia Gangemi, the anchor of the defense, said. “We’ve been running everyday and getting up just practicing, playing our hearts out. Being a defender, it’s a great experience because you get to see the field from a different perspective. I’ve been working with Micky [Wilson] and Eva [McKelvey] for a really long time and so we just have a really great chemistry and it works really well.”

Junior co-captain Meredith Spolarich was once again all over the place on Sunday, facilitating a lot of the offense while also disrupting many of Carle Place’s offensive threats. She assisted on two of Pierson’s three goals, and along with Canavan, was named to the Regional Final All-Tournament Team.

Pierson junior Meredith Spolarich gets to a loose ball before a Carle Place player. DREW BUDD

Spolarich said after the victory that it felt really good to finally come through and beat Carle Place and move on to states, which will be played in Suffolk County for what is thought to be the first time ever.

“It’s been building up for so long, seven times we’ve been beat by them, or however many times it’s been, so it feels really good to beat them,” she said. “We’ve been working for it for so long, we’ve come close so many times, it feels good to finish as a team and to finally nail it down. I think we all wanted it that much more because most of us were here last year and felt that loss and we’ve all been working so hard and we knew that if this was going to be our last game we have to put it all out on the field, so that’s we did.

“We’re all really excited,” to be advancing to states, Spolarich added. “We’re all pushing forward. To win this game like this with a 3-0 win, it will give us a lot more confidence going in and I think we’re ready.”