There’s something to be said for experience.
The Lansing boys soccer team has it, having been to the New York State Boys Soccer Tournament eight times in program history, including just last season, when it lost a heartbreaker in the semifinals to World of Inquiry, which scored with 40 seconds remaining in regulation. Pierson/Bridgehampton, making its debut in its first ever state tournament, simply couldn’t match Lansing’s prior experience, and it led to a 2-0 victory for the Bobcats over the Whalers in the New York State Class C semifinal on Saturday evening at Faller Field Sports Complex at Middletown High School.
Although Lansing (Section IV-Southern Tier), which is located just outside of Ithaca in the Finger Lakes, had been to the state tournament numerous times, it was finally able to win its first ever state title on Sunday in a 2-1 victory over Byron/Bergen. The Bobcats played this season with heavy hearts—their head coach of 20 seasons, Adam Heck, died in his sleep at age 42 during an overnight trip with the team during the preseason last year.
“They’re a very good team and they’ve been here before,” Pierson head coach Peter Solow said, following the loss. “This was a brand new thing for us, and it’s not to make an excuse, but when you think about the fact that they score a goal early in the game, and we just fight them the entire rest of the game.”
Lansing took an early 1-0 lead over Pierson just 3:47 into the game when senior Nick Parkes took a pass off a corner kick and booted a wide open shot with his left foot that sailed into the upper left corner of the goal. As is the case with any state tournament, teams don’t have much knowledge of their opponents, for obvious reasons. Pierson senior goalie Will Martin said the only thing the Whalers knew of the Bobcats was that they were a fast team. Had they known someone like Parkes could score the way that he did, things possibly could have been different.
“Especially [three] minutes into the game, no one was really ready yet,” Martin explained. “We had our backs turned on the play, and then all of a sudden it’s coming right at you. Definitely took us by surprise.”
Lansing held on to the 1-0 lead for the rest of the first half and for much of the second. The Bobcats’ stout defense only allowed one shot on goal in the first half, a booming try by Pierson senior Grady Burton that was stopped by Lansing junior goalie Jack Yahn. The Whalers had a few more scoring chances in the second half, but had a hard time getting off clean shots.
“I feel like we had a few good chances,” Pierson senior co-captain Sam Warne said. “We had at least three or four corners we really could have capitalized on. Even a few times in front of the net we could have put it in but, again, they had a really good defense tonight. They weren’t giving us anything. Kudos to them.”
Lansing added the clincher with 3:14 remaining in regulation, when senior Taylor Overton knocked in a rebound off a scramble in front of the net. Even when the Bobcats took their 2-0 lead, the Whalers continued to play hard, which made their head coach proud.
“This is heartbreaking, but they can’t have any regrets about the effort that they put in tonight, because they really gave 100 percent,” Solow said.
Martin and Warne led a strong class of graduating seniors who have the distinction of leading the team to its first state tournament. Co-captain Ariel Quiros, Javi Lopez, Josue Cruz, Grady Burton, Luis Padilla, Max Tabasso, Santi Gonzalez, Pablo Gonzalez and Dylan Kaminski are also included in that class.
“I couldn’t ask for any better teammates,” Martin said. “We’ve been playing together for years. We’ve always had this really great bond that you don’t find on other sports teams at Pierson. It’s definitely going to be different without them. It’s going to be weird adjusting to not playing soccer with them every day.”
“They’ve all really grown as players and people, and it’s really great to get this far with them,” Warne added of his teammates. “I’m really proud of all of them.”
Solow admitted after Saturday’s game that he had no inkling whatsoever at the start of the season that his team would make it to states. The Whalers headed into the state tournament with a record of 17-1-1 and without a doubt had the school’s best season in program history.
Solow, holding back tears, said there was a familial feeling on the team, which, in turn led to the team’s success this season.
“I have never coached a team that was … more like a family and that was as good to each other as this group of kids were,” he explained. “That impacted the way that they played on the field. They cared about each other, they looked out for each other, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. They played with passion, and this is what sport is about—having that idea of family and that idea of community on a team. That’s what’s important.”
Solow added that soccer can be a brutal game because a team can give its all but still come up short. He said that he hopes his players realize just how well they played and was a little worried that that would be lost. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“It is tough,” Warne said. “But this is the first time we’ve ever made it up here. Every single year I’ve been playing on the team we’ve gotten one step further. I’m excited for the guys next year. Hopefully they can get to the next stage and maybe win it all. I’m happy for the team.”