The Pierson boys soccer team needs to focus on defense this season, according to head coach Peter Solow.
During the 2011 campaign, the team allowed only seven goals in 12 league games. Last year, however, the Whalers gave up nearly triple that amount—20 goals—in the same number of games.
This year’s squad has only 17 players and a number of last year’s starters graduated, including Christian Bautista, Gordon Zeas, Alex Lira and Jackson Marienfield. As a result of the smaller roster, everyone will see a lot of playing time. Conditioning is another key to success, Solow said, pointing out that his players will need to still be strong at the end of games. Solow also expects to shift some players up from junior varsity early in the season when some of the varsity players will be unavailable due to either injury or not having enough practices.
Solow said the team has the “skill and athleticism” to be a very good team but he is still trying to figure out which players will help the team most at which positions.
“We’re asking some players to play in new positions” he said, adding that he expects everyone to contribute. Solow expects to have a much better idea of where the team stands next week after playing three non-league games in four days against Westhampton Beach, Port Jefferson—the two-time defending state Class C champion—and Mount Sinai. Following that tough three-game period, the Whalers’ League VIII season begins on September 17 when they host Smithtown Christian at Mashashimuet Park at 4:30 p.m.
Port Jefferson has moved up from League VIII to League VII this year but Solow scheduled a game against the Royals, as well as other larger schools, to help his team prepare for playing against tougher competition it hopes to face in the postseason. Pierson is ranked second in League VIII behind Southold but, Solow said, “the preseason rankings don’t really matter” as teams don’t always play as well as expected while other teams play much better than expected.
Unlike their male counterparts, the girls soccer team at Pierson had a large turnout, meaning it will field both a varsity and junior varsity team, a luxury it did not have last year.
New head coach Lisa Frisicano, who was previously the JV coach and last year the assistant varsity coach, recognized from the very beginning of her coaching career at Pierson that the soccer program did not have a “tradition of winning” and an overall expectation of “being strong and able to compete.” She hopes to change this through helping the players create higher expectations for themselves as well as the team as a whole. Part of building a strong program is having a JV team as a “developmental league” where younger players can develop and improve their skills before making the jump to the varsity.
This year’s squad has 10 seniors who are “hard-working and enthusiastic,” according to Frisicano. She stated those players have all contributed to setting an energetic and positive tone for the preseason workouts and also “serve as stellar role-models” for the younger players. The team’s approach this season will be transitioning quickly between offense and defense as well as focusing on pressuring opponent’s defenders and not allowing the other team to control the tempo of the game.
Both Frisicano and Solow declined to point out individual players who they think will lead their teams.
The Lady Whalers play in League VII, where Port Jefferson, “a well-organized, highly skilled team,” according to Frisicano, is a top tier competitor. The Whalers will face Port Jefferson on September 24 in Port Jefferson and then host the re-match on October 15. Pierson’s season kicks off with a non-league game on September 9 at East Hampton at 4 p.m., a match-up played most seasons and one both teams enjoy because of the familiarity the players have with each other. The league season begins for Pierson on September 16 when it travels to Riverhead to face Mercy at 4 p.m. The Lady Whalers will host Smithtown Christian on September 18 at 4:30 p.m. for their home opener.