It doesn’t seem to matter what the circumstances are, one thing is for certain almost every fall high school sports season: the Pierson-Bridgehampton and Southold boys soccer teams will meet in the Suffolk County Class C Championships.
Even during a pandemic-shortened season, that was the case this past Saturday when the two rivals matched up once again at Diamond in the Pines in Coram. Southold, as has been the case in recent years, topped the Whalers, 4-0, successfully defending the county title it won in 2019 and marking the ninth time in the past 17 the team has come out on top.
“For years, they’ve been doing this to us,” Pierson head coach Peter Solow said, following his team’s loss. “It really is annoying. But they are a good team.”
Southold senior co-captain Daniel Palencia scored the game’s first goal nearly 11 minutes into the game after his teammate, freshman Jack Sepenoski, intercepted what was a Whaler goal kick. Sepenoski found Palencia in Pierson’s back-third, then the speedy forward blew by defenders, finding himself one-on-one with Pierson senior goalie Nick Collage. Palencia sent a ground ball to the far left corner to give the First Settlers a quick 1-0 lead, which was the score at halftime.
With about 30 minutes remaining in the game, Southold started to amp up its offensive pressure, and after a few key stops by Collage (seven saves), the Settlers finally broke through for the all-important insurance goal with 27:28 remaining. This time, Sepenoski received a pass from Palencia, broke through Pierson’s defense and shot the ball into the bottom right corner for his first career varsity goal, to make it 2-0.
Southold added two more goals by senior Justin Uguna and junior Ricardo Lopez before the final whistle.
Solow was a bit unnerved about his team’s struggle with staying onsides throughout the game. He said he worked on it with his team, knowing Southold plays a high line with its defense, but still, the Whalers went offsides about a half-dozen times or so, limiting its chances on offense.
“If we had not had those offsides, that would have made a difference, but also you have to commend them, because for portions of the game, we controlled the middle of the field,” he said. “We had to do some stuff very simple. We had to take the ball down the wings, because we have a tremendous amount of speed, and keep it out of the middle. We had to two-touch the ball, or get rid of the ball faster and distribute it, and we didn’t do all of those things that we needed to do. But there were parts of the game we clearly dominated. We had opportunities.”
Solow continued to say that he was “disappointed for the guys,” not so much that they lost, but that, win or lose, it was the last game of what has been a very trying season for his team. Solow himself missed the first two weeks of the season due to getting his COVID vaccinations, and then a bunch of players missed time, or in some cases never played again, due to quarantines, injuries and other various reasons. The Whalers won their final two games of the season to finish with a 3-4-1 League V record, which led to a successful petition to get into the county championship.
“The fact that we were able to come out and play, the fact that we had a season, the fact that we came back toward the end of the season and made it to the playoffs … all that stuff is really positive,” he said.
Pierson will be losing seven seniors, who Solow called “superstars,” in Collage, Joey Badilla, Sebastian Gomez, Jhoziel Guanga-Soliz, Richard Rodriguez, Roberto Saldivar and Bridgehampton’s Luis Paredes. But Solow is excited with the team he has returning in the fall. It’ll have nearly its entire defense intact, which will include goalie Lucas Bernardino, who will be a sophomore next season, and made a couple of saves at the end of Saturday’s game.