The situation was less than ideal for the Whitman boys soccer team as the Wildcats were missing their top scorer for a road match against the defending league champions.
But overcoming the odds, Whitman defeated Central Islip, 1-0, yesterday afternoon in Suffolk League II, with Sean Zagorski's first-half goal the difference.
Zagorski headed in a cross off a free kick from Michael Lorello in the 31st minute and the Whitman defense held on to seal the win.
"It's a big win to beat Central Islip on their field," said Whitman coach John DiGiacomo, whose team improved to 5-2 and moved into a tie with Central Islip (5-2) for first place in the league. DiGiacomo said the key for his players was, "Staying composed. It was a very physical game. They definitely have a home advantage, but we were able to make the plays we needed to and we had a chance in the first half and took advantage. Our defense didn't break."
DiGiacomo said Zagorski, a central defender, played a pivotal role for the Whitman backline after scoring the goal. "He's a big, tough centerback and he was able to use his talent and physicality to help keep a clean sheet."
Whitman was without striker Witman Hernandez, who leads League II with 11 goals. "We have a next man-up mentality," DiGiacomo said. "When one guy goes down, the next guy steps up and does his job."
Friday, that player was Oscar Alfaro, who filled in for Hernandez up front. DiGiacomo said Alfaro created a number of chances and "played tough up there for us."
DiGiacomo also praised Lorello for "[Holding] together the midfield."
Whitman's next challenge will come at home on Monday against Northport (4-1-2), another League II front-runner, which defeated Whitman in the Wildcats' league opener.