Saturday morning’s field hockey game between host Pierson/Bridgehampton and Eastport-South Manor felt more like a playoff match than a mid-season regular season game, and it looked as if it was going to need overtime to determine a winner.
But, with about 30 seconds remaining in the game, Pierson junior Eleana Merola found a sprinting Meredith Spolarich down the middle of the field, and the junior took the well executed pass, burst into the circle and ripped a shot and scored to give the Whalers a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
Pierson (3-3 Division II) ran on to the field as the final whistle blew with a show of emotion of what a typical playoff or late-season game would usually show. It was clear that Saturday’s victory meant a lot to the team.
“It was a really good win because we’ve been building for so long and we have such a good team and we’ve been really wanting to show everyone what we can do,” Spolarich said. “We definitely worked hard today.”
Pierson controlled the game from start to finish. It had 15 corners to ESM’s seven and the Whalers threw 18 shots on goal to the Sharks’ seven. To her credit, ESM goalie Stephanie Valle made 15 saves and was crucial in keeping her team in it, making a number of key stops. Pierson sophomore goalie Cali Wilson made seven saves to keep ESM (1-4 Division II, 2-5 overall) off the board.
Pierson head coach Nina Hemby said it was a heart-wrenching game that both teams should be proud of. But for her team, Saturday’s performance was what she’s been waiting to see for quite some time now.
“We needed this big time,” Hemby said. “We started off to a rocky, weird way to start the season. With the go-go-go of last season, now we had a whole week off, so we had a week of just pretty much laying low and conditioning, working on our stick skills. But this is the best I’ve felt so far, for the season, previous seasons. We’ve had great teams, but this, this was hockey. This is, like, clean hockey on both sides, both playing a really good game of skill and passing, which is really nice to see.
“It’s not easy to get your team there and these girls have been here since they were freshmen and this is what we’ve been leading up to, this kind of play, this kind of game, this kind of communication,” she added, “so I’m just really, really happy and excited for them.”
A number of players tried their best at getting Pierson on the board throughout the game. Senior co-captains Caroline Canavan and Madison Stuckart each had chances, as did junior Tahnie Sullivan. Spolarich even had a goal called off in the third quarter due to a penalty.
Finally the Whalers were able to put together a good scoring chance in the waning seconds of the game, and it all started with the strong pass from Merola to Spolarich.
“They spread out, gave her her lane and let her go for it, and that’s just pure confidence in your teammate being able to finish,” Hemby said of the game-winning play.
The players said they want to take what they can from Saturday’s game and apply it going forward.
“We’ve been having trouble finishing, but I think the last goal felt good,” said Stuckhart, who enjoyed her 17th birthday on Saturday. “We want to play like this every single game.”