To understand the transformative power of pressure one need look no further than the Pierson/Bridgehampton boys soccer team. Drastically inconsistent for weeks, the Whalers are now playing elimination games and have become an excellent team that’s hit its stride
Pierson/Bridgehampton may have played its best game of the season – so far – on Tuesday when it defeated Carle Place 1-0 in the Long Island Class C championship match at Mitchel Field.
The Whalers (10-7-1) used great quickness to take balls off the feet of the Frogs throughout the game, but were at their absolute best warding off Carle Place’s best bids for a goal. The Frogs got numerous corner kicks or throw-ins deep in Whalers territory. Pierson/Bridgehampton seemed to blanket every inch of the box, getting to most of the balls first and knocking them out of scoring position.
"That was the best we’ve defended plays like that all season," Whalers coach Peter Solow said. "When we’ve lost, we’ve given up goals on set plays by the other team. We didn’t let them run their plays today."
"(With) All those corner kicks the score could have looked very different if our boys hadn’t all marked up," goalie Gavin Gilbride said. "We got heads on those balls, contested everything and cleared them all."
Pierson/Bridgehampton advances to Saturday’s Southeast Regional final and will play either Section I champion Hamilton at Byram Hills or Section IX titlist SS Seward at Newburgh Free Academy. The last time they were in the state tournament, in 2017, the Whalers reached the state Class C semifinals.
The way the Whalers were defending, all they needed was a little breathing room. They got that in the 12th minute when Halsey Burton had a corner kick from the left side.
He bent the kick right at the goal and Frogs goalie Jason Seligman deflected it away. The ball caromed off the right post and to Whaler David Moreno for an unimpeded shot.
"It was like the ball suddenly appeared in front of me," Moreno said.
Carle Place (8-7-3) had a half-dozen corner kicks in the final 10 minutes and a handful of shots on goal. They either got turned away, were shot wide or ended up one of Gavin Gilbride’s eight saves.
"We’ve had issues scoring all season and it bit us today," Frogs coach Conor Reardon said. "It’s not like we didn’t have opportunities. And when we got shots off everything was wide left or wide right."
Pierson/Bridgehampton was the smallest team in its division. Spending the entire season facing larger schools, it developed an attitude that is serving it well now.
"We were underdogs today and we’re going to be underdogs the next time," Burton said. "We’re fine with that. We’ll take it and keep going."