Despite being in uncharted territory, the Pierson boys soccer team competed at a high level and ultimately fell just short of advancing.
The Whalers led by a goal in the Class C Southeast Regional semifinal at Diamond in the Pines Tuesday until S.S. Seward’s Jack Gardiner netted a free kick from about 25 yards with three seconds remaining in regulation.
Pierson eventually fell to the Spartans, 2-1, after Logan Wood scored off an assist from Nick Codi just over two minutes into the second overtime.
“This is one of the things that’s so cool and also at the same time so tragic about soccer in the way these things work,” Pierson coach Peter Solow said. “It comes down to one play, and it comes down to one goal.”
The loss was truly heartbreaking for the Whalers, who were far from dominant, but still played well enough to control most of regulation. It was in the overtime periods when Seward broke through, creating chances and testing senior goalkeeper Kevin Feliciano, who made 11 saves.
An evident exhaustion swept over many of the Whalers in overtime after fighting hard for 80-plus minutes. Solow said Sam Warne and Luis Padilla were banged up. Josue Cruz, the team’s defensive midfielder, left the game in the second half.
Senior Charlie Pintado, who scored Pierson’s lone goal in the 36th minute on a corner kick that struck the goalkeeper and bounced in near-post, also left the game in the second before returning. But even when on the field, Pintado still wasn’t right. He could be seen stretching at every stoppage.
“At the end of the second half, my leg started to cramp,” Pintado said. “That’s why I came out. I was trying to stretch as much as I could, but it just kept on hurting. That’s why I kept stretching it in overtime.”
Pintado was emblematic of Pierson’s drive to win every ball and capitalize on every chance against a much larger team in stature. After winning the school’s first county title since 1995, Pierson had already proved its talent in locking up a successful campaign.
“This is no man’s land for us,” Solow said. “To go to even the second round, we just have to build off the experience.”
For Pintado, a four-year varsity player, the loss stings because of the finality of his high school career.
“It’s our last game representing Pierson,” he said.
He and his fellow seniors certainly represented well.