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Oct 31, 2018 9:05 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Hemby's Goal, Johnson's Save Lead Pierson To Win Over Port Jeff In County 'C' Final

Senior captain Paige Schaefer goes to hug eighth-grader Emma Rascelles just after the final buzzer marking the Lady Whaler's 1-0 county title victory. CAILIN RILEY
Oct 31, 2018 10:18 AM

Pierson goalie Charlotte Johnson didn’t have a whole lot to do in Tuesday night’s Suffolk County Class C field hockey championship game between her squad and Port Jefferson. But she came up big when it mattered most.

The senior made a key save with just two minutes left to help preserve a 1-0 victory for her team, which won its fourth straight county title.

Mahlia Hemby scored the only goal of the game, with 8:27 left in the first half, off a send-in from Paige Schaefer on a corner.

The Lady Whalers dominated possession throughout the game, drawing 19 penalty corners, while the Lady Royals managed only one. But, as most teams do when they are minutes from elimination, Port Jeff descended on Pierson with a flurry of energy in the final moments, its offense seeming to come alive for the first time all game.

Johnson is headed to Duke University next year for field hockey, and she is no stranger to pressure-packed games. But she admitted that staying focused in a game her team was dominating wasn’t easy.

“All I was thinking about was watching the ball, and staying set and focused,” Johnson said of the last-minute save. “Luckily, it came right to me, because I was in the right spot at the right time. It’s harder when you don’t have constant shots all the time, because you’re not warmed up, so you really have to track everything and keep your head on straight. There’s a lot more pressure.”

Johnson’s role on the team has been more than just a lockdown player in the cage. As one of only a few seniors on a roster dominated by middle schoolers and underclassmen, her leadership has been just as key as her skills.

Head coach Kim Hannigan said she thought her team showed its collective inexperience in the first 15 minutes of the game, playing tentatively against a team it had beat twice during the regular season. Eventually, the young Lady Whalers found their stride, and while Hannigan said she would have liked to see them capitalize more on their many scoring chances, she was happier with the way they played by the game’s end.

“I think they came out a little nervous and anxious,” Hannigan said. “They’re super young, so I think that played a role. But once they found their niche, I think we finally started playing well.”

Pierson will need to get into a rhythm sooner in its next game, a showdown with Nassau County champ Carle Place for the Long Island Class C title, set for November 3 at 4:30 p.m. at Berner Middle School in Massapequa.

If the Lady Whalers win, it would be their first Long Island title since 2015. Carle Place has won six straight Nassau ‘C’ titles and is the two-time defending Long Island champion.

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