Pierson/Bridgehampton Falls, 2-0, to Evergreen Charter in Long Island Class C Championship - 27 East

Pierson/Bridgehampton Falls, 2-0, to Evergreen Charter in Long Island Class C Championship

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Pierson senior Quinn Tanner creates a turnover.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson senior Quinn Tanner creates a turnover. MARIANNE BARNETT

Wilmer Reyes takes over the ball.    MARIANNE BARNETT

Wilmer Reyes takes over the ball. MARIANNE BARNETT

Quinn Tanner and an Evergreen Charter player tangle with each other as a bouncing ball approaches.    MARIANNE BARNETT

Quinn Tanner and an Evergreen Charter player tangle with each other as a bouncing ball approaches. MARIANNE BARNETT

Ryder Esposito clears another ball out of the backfield for the Whalers.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Ryder Esposito clears another ball out of the backfield for the Whalers. MARIANNE BARNETT

Whaler Quinn Tanner fends off a pair of Evergreen Charter.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Whaler Quinn Tanner fends off a pair of Evergreen Charter. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson senior goalie George Ingolia.    MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson senior goalie George Ingolia. MARIANNE BARNETT

Jose Gomez, left, and George Caguana disrupt an Evergreen Charter player.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Jose Gomez, left, and George Caguana disrupt an Evergreen Charter player. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson junior Andy Wayne plays the ball with an Evergreen Charter player on his back.   MARANNE BARNETT

Pierson junior Andy Wayne plays the ball with an Evergreen Charter player on his back. MARANNE BARNETT

Pierson senior Jose Gomez clears the ball.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson senior Jose Gomez clears the ball. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson junior Mike Ayala plays a bouncing ball.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson junior Mike Ayala plays a bouncing ball. MARIANNE BARNETT

Helio Paucar plays the ball with his head.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Helio Paucar plays the ball with his head. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson junior Wilmer Reyes gets held a bit going for a bouncing ball.    MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson junior Wilmer Reyes gets held a bit going for a bouncing ball. MARIANNE BARNETT

Quinn Tanner heads the ball.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Quinn Tanner heads the ball. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson senior Ryder Esposito clears the ball before an Evergeeen Charter gets to it.  MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson senior Ryder Esposito clears the ball before an Evergeeen Charter gets to it. MARIANNE BARNETT

George Caguana makes a move on a defender.   MARIANNE BARNETT

George Caguana makes a move on a defender. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson senior co-captain Gus Hayes plays the ball.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson senior co-captain Gus Hayes plays the ball. MARIANNE BARNETT

An Evergreen Charter player comes over to console Whalers after they lost, 2-0.  MARIANNE BARNETT

An Evergreen Charter player comes over to console Whalers after they lost, 2-0. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson's Jose Gomez     MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson's Jose Gomez MARIANNE BARNETT

Drew Budd on Nov 2, 2023

This time of year it’s always the same thing for the Pierson/Bridgehampton boys soccer team, waiting to see who will come out of the woodwork to challenge the team for a Long Island Championship or regional title.

Just last year, the Whalers didn’t even have to compete for a county title, and Nassau County couldn’t come up with a team to give them a Long Island Championship game, so they went straight to a Regional Final, where they lost to eventual state champion Haldane.

This year could be different.

Nassau came up with the Evergreen Charter Bears of Hempstead which, according to Newsday, played its first varsity season this fall as the only Class C team in the county, playing a schedule against larger Class B teams after just one junior varsity season last year. With only one senior, Evergreen went 2-10 and didn’t have to play a postseason game until the Long Island Class C Championship at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale on October 31.

Evergreen proved itself worthy with a 2-0 victory over Pierson behind a pair of second-half goals. The Bears opened the scoring with 23:09 remaining in regulation, when Marcio Rodriguez drove a shot from about 30 yards out. Pierson senior goalie George Ingolia, who made six saves throughout the day, thought the ball was going to sail over the goal, but he misjudged it a bit and it dropped right down into the goal.

About five minutes later, Rodriguez put a similar ball back into Pierson’s goal box, back post. Whalers head coach Luis Aguilar said the ball kind of caught his defense sleeping a little bit, allowing Dary Duarte to have an open shot and he scored with 17:51 remaining.

Pierson looked to be the more dangerous team of the two in the attacking third in the first half, but in the second half, Evergreen started man-marking Pierson senior forward Quinn Tanner, one of the team’s most dangerous scorers, with a sweeper. Aguilar made the decision, he said, to go with a two-striker offense, which he knew would open up the midfield a bit for Evergreen, but at the same time he knew he needed some sort of offense to win the game.

“It was a decision I made so we could get ahead on the scoresheet,” he said. “As a coach, you make decisions knowing you can have some repercussions on the field. I made the decision and it ended up working in their favor.”

Aguilar said his decision didn’t directly lead to Evergreen’s two goals, but it did help create the space it needed to allow it to set the two goals up.

“In soccer, anybody can beat anybody,” he said. “ Ultimately, that’s why I love and coach the sport.”

Evergreen Charter wound up losing, 2-0, to Mount Academy in the Regional Final on Friday evening.

Aguilar and the Whalers didn’t have much time to prepare for Evergreen, finding out about 48 hours or so after winning the county championships on October 28 that the two would be playing each other. Aguilar said he found some game films of Evergreen on YouTube. He watched one of them, but Aguilar, a 2016 East Hampton graduate who went to the state final his junior year, said he was more focused on how to improve his own team’s game.

“From what I saw, they were gritty, they were fast, definitely hard working. Very similar to East Hampton, just kind of quick footwork ability on the ball,” he explained. “Personally, I tried to focus on ourselves. We have our strengths and weaknesses and I told the boys I’d much rather focus on ourselves than focus on the opponent. Whether it was the right decision or not really comes down to the heat of the moment. I guess they were able to capitalize on their chances and we weren’t. We’ll try again next year.”

Nearly half of this year’s team is graduating, including some key players who meant a lot to the team’s success over the past few seasons, including Tanner and Helio Paucar, captains Ryder Esposito and Gus Hayes and goalie George Ingolia, who was the last of the bunch to rejoin the team late in the season. It was clear in the beginning of the season that Pierson was a different team without those players, and as they each started to come back, they turned a 3-6 season to a 9-9 record that included a Suffolk County Class C Championship and being Long Island finalists.

“They were huge in terms of the success of our team,” Aguilar said of his seniors. “As you know, we started the beginning of the season without George Ingolia, our starting keeper, without Ryder, probably our best and strongest defender, without Quinn and Helio. So without those four, five players, it was tough. But once we were able to get them back, we were able to turn the season around.

“It was a total team effort, though,” he added. “Luckily, the boys bought in, and I give them credit. They worked hard and you could just see how they came together collectively. I want to thank them. It was a great season and I’m definitely going to miss them, but it’s time to move on.”

The Whalers have won the past three consecutive county titles and Aguilar said ultimately the goal is to keep that streak going — and go even further.

“We have a good amount returning, probably half the team returning, and each year you look forward to what we can do with the group in offseason workouts and practices,” he said. “It’s nice winning a county championship. It’s even nicer winning the whole thing. So we’ll look to start back up as soon as possible.”

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