At first there was silence. A moment later, there was jubilation.
As Jordan Perez Hernandez stepped up to the penalty spot for the Whitman boys soccer team, a hush went over the crowd.
Perez Hernandez's teammate Roberto Alfaro Ortez was taken down in the box with just over three minutes remaining and a penalty kick was awarded.
“I usually take the penalties, my friends always support me in that decision,” Perez Hernandez said. “When I saw that happening, I was excited to take the kick. I told myself that I got to put this in … I have to finish this.”
And finish it he did.
Perez Hernandez ripped a shot into the bottom left of the goal lifting Whitman over Northport, 1-0, in a Suffolk League II match Monday afternoon at Whitman High School.
“I saw the keeper sliding to the right, and I was like, alright, I’ll take it to the left, and that’s what I did,” he said.
The Wildcats improved to 8-2, and clinched a playoff berth.
“We lost against Northport last year twice," Perez Hernandez said. "This means a lot to me because I really wanted to win against this team. They are a really good team, and I am just very happy to get the win.”
A key moment in the match came with 12:41 left in the second half when Northport’s Peter Detolla was taken down in the penalty area. At first there was no call, but after some appeals from the Northport bench and coaching staff, the two referees got together and awarded the Tigers a penalty shot.
Steven Siso approached the spot looking to give Northport the lead, but Whitman goalkeeper Sean Rankel had other ideas.
Rankel (10 saves) made a sprawling save and the Wildcats were able to clear the rebound to keep the match scoreless.
“I just focused in, chose a corner, and dove towards the ball and hoped to save it,” Rankel said.
“Sean came up huge and kept us in the game,” Whitman head coach John DiGiacomo said. “We have recently been working on our penalty kicks in practice, so the keepers have got a lot more work there.”
The Wildcats have recorded four consecutive shutouts. Nick Ree made 10 saves for the Tigers.
“Ever since we got to the county final and won states in 2015 there has been that expectation that everybody has had of us,” DiGiacomo said. “It’s hard for them to have that pressure each and every game, but I think they welcome it, and fortunately today we were on the winning end of it.”