The first name in boys soccer these days for Whitman is . . . Witman
That's Witman Hernandez, the high-scoring senior forward for Whitman High School who Monday assisted on both goals in the No. 2 Wildcats' 2-0 home victory over No. 3 Smithtown West in a Suffolk AA semifinal.
Hernandez fed Anthony Palazzolo at the top of the box with 4:05 left in the first half and Fabrizio Chamorro with 9:11 remaining in the second half to carry Whitman into a championship game showdown with No. 1 Brentwood at 6:30 Thursday night at Dowling. Whitman ousted Brentwood, 2-1, in overtime in last year's county semifinals.
"We definitely controlled the ball and moved it from side to side," Hernandez said of the Wildcats' high-pressure offense. "We came up with some good combinations. That's how we play."
For Whitman (16-1-1), Hernandez is usually involved in those winning combinations. He has 44 career goals, one away from the school record, and was in position to set the mark when he dribbled down the right side late in the first half.
"I saw one side of the net wide open," Palazzolo said. "Witman had the ball, but I said, 'That's me, that's me.' "
So Hernandez delivered the pass.
"The ball was on my off foot. I'm a righty but I was able to score with my left foot," Palazzolo said. "That felt good and it got us going. We know we have a lead, we can play more relaxed."
Whitman coach John DiGiacomo said he wasn't surprised when Hernandez passed up a clear shot. "He's such an unselfish player," DiGiacomo said. "He's probably tripled his assist output this season. Part of that is that he's expanded his game and part of that is people know who he is and they don't want to let him roam free."
Still, Hernandez's ball skills and agility combined with Whitman's relentless attack created several good scoring opportunities against Smithtown West (15-2-1). Bulls goalkeeper Aaron Siegel robbed Hernandez in the final seconds of the first half and also turned away Chamorro in close midway through the second half. He made eight saves, twice as many as Austin Salas needed to record the shutout.
But Chamorro put the game away when he beat Siegel just inside the right post on a pass from Hernandez. "I had the ball about 30 yards from the goal, all by myself," Hernandez said. "Then I saw Fabrizio all by himself. So I made the pass. It doesn't matter who scores, as long as we keep winning."
For Witman, it's all about Whitman.