Ten corner attempts and over 50 minutes into a 0-0 game, Pierson senior midfielder Joyce Arbia turned to freshman midfielder Emma Rascelles and said, “’Emma, just get me a goal.’” And she did.
The senior shuffled the ball to Rascelles on a corner, re-received it on a tip, and crossed it back to her before Rascelles stuffed it in up front for a 1-0 lead and No. 1 Pierson’s fifth straight Suffolk County Class C title.
“In my head all I was thinking was ‘Get it in goal, win the game,’” Arbia said. “And when she did, I just wanted to run up and give her a big hug.”
Rascelles said with 6:37 on the clock she was maybe just a little overexcited when she grabbed possession.
“Energy burst through me,” she said, smiling. “I just shot it and hoped.”
No. 2 Babylon refused to go down easily, but with 4:01 left, freshman goalie Maeve O’Donoghue made her second, last, and biggest save of the game to preserve her clean sheet.
“We needed to make sure we kept the ball out of our zone, off our side of the field,” O’Donoghue said. “I was nervous because Babylon was getting intense, and mad. I thought that they might be able to score on us, but I also knew I had to focus. I told myself, ‘These last four minutes you have to do what you’ve trained for’ — make sure I’m watching the ball, moving with the ball, and doing my best to tell the girls where to be to follow their mark.”
“We all wanted to keep the ball out of that circle,” Arbia added, “Keep our sticks out. To get here year after year, it’s about hard work.”
O’Donoghue, who almost made the switch to play junior varsity volleyball instead of field hockey, said because of that dedication she trusted her defense would back her up when the going got tough.
“I was there for them. And I knew they were there for me, too,” she said. “I believed in us.”
The Whalers — with just two seniors on a 19-girl roster — shook off the early nerves to prove that. They’d been in a similar situation in 2018, with seven freshmen and three eighth-graders on that roster.
“Last year was challenging,” Rascelles said. “This year we felt more like a team.”
Twelve freshman and eighth-graders this season were another year older, another year wiser, and another year more experienced.
“The first half of the game was all jitters, unsure of where we were going to go,” first-year head coach and 2011 Pierson graduate Nina Hemby said. “I felt a lot of pressure, although I’m sure they felt it even more.”
During the first handful of missed corners, she said she had to remind herself to breathe.
“I was holding my breath the entire time. We just needed to play smart hockey, not hard,” Hemby said. “The goal is to reach receive the ball, and shoot it. That last corner we were in the right positions to do that.”
Hemby had made it to the state tournament, and her sister won it with Pierson, so she knows what it takes. Her cousin, Mahlia Hemby, the other senior on the squad, is hoping she could be next. First, Pierson will have to face Nassau’s Carle Place or Oyster Bay November 9 at Centereach High School at 11 AM. The senior thought having so many underclassmen would make it harder, but said her Whalers have continued to prove her wrong.
“I’m so proud of them because they’ve stepped up,” Hemby said. “Pierson field hockey is a big deal. These girls brought their game and played our field hockey. We’re not going to change it for anyone.”