Sam Warne was tired of the painful endings he and his Pierson/Bridgehampton boys soccer teammates had endured the last three years.
So the senior midfielder made sure the Whalers’ 2017 season continues. Warne scored twice, including the winner with 5:35 left in regulation, as the Whalers defeated S.S. Seward, 3-1, in the Class C Southeast Regional final at Diamond in the Pines on Saturday.
Pierson/Bridgehampton (17-1-1) advances to the state semifinal against the Sauquoit Valley (Section III) / Lansing (Section IV) winner at 4 p.m. Nov. 11 in Middletown.
“I’ve honestly been dreaming about this since I was younger,” Warne said. “I’ve been on the team since I was a ninth-grader, and we’ve had heartbreak here with Southold [in the Suffolk C final] two years in a row, and last year [also to Seward in double OT] was another heartbreak.”
This time, Warne was the one breaking hearts when he beat Seward goalkeeper Bobby Verblaauw (7 saves) with a left-footed blast in the 20th minute.
But Seward’s Jack Gardiner tied the score on a beautiful bicycle kick in the 24th minute, as the ball went through the hands of Whalers keeper Will Martin.
“I played the rest of the game angry,” said Martin, who thought he should have made the save. “We weren’t going to lose to this team again.”
Martin (6 saves) redeemed himself with a huge point-blank stop 37 seconds after the goal by Seward (13-6).
The game went back-and-forth until the final six minutes when Luis Padilla sent a great through ball to Warne, who headed it past an aggressive Verblaauw and into the net.
“The goalie made an amazing attempt to get that and he actually got a part of my face,” said a smiling Warne, clutching the regional final trophy. “I just got my head on it.”
The Whalers added a final goal with 1:49 left when Grady Burton assisted Jorge Alvarado.
It was a much different ending for the Whalers this time against Seward, who won the 2016 regional final after a tying goal with three seconds left in regulation, and the winner two minutes into the second overtime in a game that was also played at Diamond in the Pines.
“We really just went out and attacked, and kept going at them,” said Warne, who is fourth in Suffolk with 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) this season. “We just didn’t give up this time.”
The Whalers now advance to their first-ever state semifinal, thanks in large part, to Warne.
“Nobody on the field was putting forth more of an investment in what he was doing than Sam,” Whalers eighth-year coach Peter Solow said. “He was on defense, he played striker, midfield — wherever he was — he was working with a passion.”