By Gavin Menu
There was one word that kept coming up after the Pierson/Bridgehampton boys soccer team’s 2-0 loss to Lansing in the New York Sate Class C semifinal in Middletown on Saturday.
After putting together a magical season that included League VIII, Suffolk County and Southeast Regional championships, the Whalers bowed out of the state playoffs, but did so in typical fashion for this team.
“I’ve never coached a team that was more like a family and was as good to each other as this group of kids were,” Pierson head coach Peter Solow said on the frigid sidelines of the Faller Field Sports Complex at Middletown High School on Saturday night. “And that impacted how they played on the field.”
“I couldn’t ask for better teammates,” said senior goalie Will Martin, who made two critical saves late in the game to keep Lansing to a one-goal lead. “We’ve been playing together for years and we’ve always had this really great bond.”
Lansing had been to this stage before, and was riding its own wave of emotion as well. The Bobcats had been to the state semifinals seven times before, including last season following the death of their longtime coach, Adam Heck, who died in his sleep at the age of 42 during an overnight trip with the team in the preseason. The Bobcats on Sunday went on to win the program’s first state title with a 2-1 double-overtime win over Byron/Bergen, dedicating the triumph to the memory of their former coach.
Lansing struck early in Saturday’s semifinal when Nick Parkes scored off a corner with just 3:47 gone in the first half. Pierson fought from behind for the remainder of the game, and even forced the action for much of the night. Martin made two huge saves on breakaways late in the second half, but Lansing, a Section IV school from just outside Ithaca in the Finger Lakes, ultimately iced the game when Taylor Overton sent a shot on goal that ricocheted past Martin to give the Bobcats a 2-0 lead with just three minutes remaining.
“All around, it was a pretty tight game,” said senior Sam Warne, who will graduate alongside some of the best players to ever come through Pierson. “It was going back and forth and we were both getting shots on each other’s goals.”
Warne led Pierson with 18 goals this season, and will graduate next spring along with Martin, Javi Lopez, Josue Cruz, Grady Burton, Ariel Quiros, Luis Padilla, Max Tabasso, Santi Gonzalez, Pablo Gonzalez and Dylan Kaminski.
“Many of these kids I’ve coached since they were little kids, and I have to tell you I’m really proud of them,” Solow said on Saturday, fighting back waves of emotion. “It’s a brutal game. There’s a finality to all of this that’s really tough to deal with. But when you look at this game, this is the beauty of soccer. These guys gave 100 percent and they worked very hard.”
“I’ve been with these guys forever. Growing up playing behind the school, it’s been phenomenal,” Warne added. “They’ve all really grown as players and people, and just to get this far, I’m really proud of all of them.
“I feel like we had a few good chances, but they had a very good defense tonight, and they weren’t giving us anything,” he added.
And with that, the Whalers, together as a family, boarded the bus and headed home to Sag Harbor.