Autumn on the east end of Long Island evokes images of sun-ripened pumpkins, swollen grapevines and bright foliage, an idyllic scene that was trampled this afternoon by a marauding group of young women clad in navy jerseys. Our girls’ soccer team took on Pierson, their foe in the last two County Championships, and the script remained unchanged as the Bears defeated the Whalers, 6-1.
The score is deceiving; however, as our girls labored for the first 60 minutes before finally finishing off their adversaries. For much of the game our girls looked as though they were carrying a weight around their necks. Many of them were sick, some were tired after yesterday’s match with Half Hollow Hills East, and the Bears had to do battle without two stalwarts of the team, Brianna Stiklickas and Kelsey Wentling, who are sidelined with injuries. The girls did not yield in the face of these obstacles, but fought their tired legs and clogged heads and earned the victory. There is a crest that hangs above the entrance to Pierson High School that reads, “Mea Spes Est In Deo,” Latin for “My Hope Is In God.” The girls epitomized this phrase in the way they persevered this afternoon.
Before our girls took the pitch on this cool September afternoon, coach Mark Maningo had some words for them. “Turn the page from yesterday,” he began, alluding to yesterday’s 0-5 defeat at the hands of Class AA Hills East. “Come out hard, score first, apply pressure the entire time. I understand some of you are hurting, some of you are tired, some of you are sick, but this is the league opener. Ladies, let’s go hard.”
The time of possession was very even over the course of the first half. Both teams had scoring chances, but it was the Bears who grabbed the lead first. The Whalers seemed to have momentum when they went charging down the field ahead of the blue defenders, but keeper Danielle Pappas came off her line, scooped up the ball, fired a pass to Donna Liotine who then fed Michelle Hennessy for the game’s first tally. The Bears took a 2-0 lead when Liotine crossed the ball into the box for Gianna Scavo who punched in the ball after a short scrum with the goalie. The lone goal of the game for Pierson came on an own goal for the Brook off of a corner kick that made the score 2-1. The final twenty minutes of the half were very evenly played as the Whalers became energized by the gifted goal. They had several opportunities to tie the match on corner kicks, but Pappas was equal to every challenge. A glaring deficiency in the opening frame was our clearing game. We struggled with getting the ball up the field cleanly and our overall play seemed a bit sloppy. The half could not come soon enough as our girls desperately needed a break and a chance to regroup. | 2-1
Our ineffective clearing continued as the second half commenced and our offensive game also sputtered to a halt. Both Liotine and Hennessy had some great individual efforts, but our possessions were short and lacked technique. For much of the opening twenty minutes our girls worked hard, but could not finish off Pierson who threatened to knot the game on several occasions. On one particular corner kick, Pappas had to make a great catch to prevent an equalizer. The game had shifted from an easy win to a nail-biting affair, until Hennessy, assisted by Liotine, drove a dagger into Pierson’s hopes with a chip shot over the keeper to make it 3-1. The Pierson assistant coach encouraged his downcast players by yelling, “We still have time!” He was right, but unfortunately for him, it was the Bears who took advantage of the remaining minutes by netting three more goals before the final horn.
The Brook dominated the final twenty minutes on both sides of the ball. The offense kept attacking, attacking, attacking, sending shot after shot at the Pierson net, while Kierran Petersen, Brannon Burke, and Madison Rylands were nearly impenetrable on defense. Liotine, who had narrowly missed on several earlier scoring opportunities, shook off some of her frustration by burying a goal on a direct kick after being slide tackled from behind just outside the box. Even with a three-goal lead, the Bear offense did not relent as Liotine, Hennessy, and Scavo all pounded shots at the Whalers. In the 89th minute, Liotine notched her fourth assist of the game as she curled her corner kick into the box for Hennessy to head home, giving the senior yet another hat trick. The final exclamation point came in the 90th minute when Liotine received a throw-in from Christine Brathwaite and lobbed a kick over the Pierson keeper for the sixth and final goal. As the final moments ticked away, the Pierson coaches were left searching for a moral victory as the Bears strode off the field triumphantly. | 6-1
Assistant coach Frank Macchia summed up the game nicely by saying, “We wore them down.” The Whalers were able to hang with us for two-thirds of the game because we were sluggish, we communicated poorly at times, and we did not play smart soccer. However, the girls did not give in and simply hope for a win; they grabbed the momentum by the jugular and did not loosen their grip until time had expired. We did not play our brand of soccer for most of the game, yet still emerged with a lopsided victory, sans two starters. Liotine and Hennessy were once again the catalysts, ripping the Pierson nylon so often that Michelle Hennessy had to ask after the game, “Wait, how many goals did I have?” If we can stay healthy and bring the right focus to each game, this will not be the last time we lose track of how often we have scored.
This is the second time Michelle Hennessy has registered a hat trick vs. Pierson, the first time coming in 2008… Donna Liotine is currently tied for 2nd on Long Island in points with 7 and Michelle Hennessy is tied for 5th with 6. Additionally, Hennessy is tied for 3rd on Long Island and 2nd in Suffolk County in goals scored with 5… Donna Liotine is tied for 1st on Long Island in assists with 5…
|Liotine||2 goals/4 assists|
|Scavo||1 goal/1 assist|