Although the Port Jefferson field hockey team fell to Pierson-Bridgehampton in the Suffolk County Class C championship, 6-0, the Royals can boast recording their first postseason appearance since 2009.
“It was a great feat the girls achieved,” Port Jefferson head coach Debbie Brown said. “They worked really hard to get into the position they were in, so I’m very proud of them.”
Ranked last out of the 13 teams to make the playoffs, the Royals did not expect to top the Whalers, but the team was proud of holding its opponent to a 1-0 lead by the halftime break.
“Pierson is an extraordinary team and they have a lot of girls that do travel all year round,” Brown said. “So to be 1-0 at halftime, I was extremely happy and extremely proud of them, and the score didn’t reflect how well the girls played.”
After Pierson-Bridgehampton scored a couple of goals in the second half, Brown, seeing a loss on the horizon, substituted in some of her younger players to give them playoff experience.
“They worked hard all season and they deserved it, so [Pierson-Bridgehampton] scored a few more quick goals,” Brown said.
According to the coach, the Royals had the added challenge of only fielding 14, compared to the average 25-player roster.
“So even though the score said 6-0, it was a great first-half game and, if anything, we dominated the first five minutes of the game and had the first couple of corners.”
Brown’s daughter, Jackie, who has been on the team for four years, scored 10 of the team’s 17 goals this season, despite being injured toward the beginning.
The junior forward said she couldn’t take all the credit because the goals wouldn’t have been possible without the help of her teammates. The younger Brown added that it was exciting to finally be a part of a playoff game, after previously watching from the sidelines while serving as a ball girl.
“To actually be on the field, on a team, with my teammates, playing, it was a nice experience,” she said. “In the beginning of the season we didn’t communicate well on the field, but in the end we were passing to each other nonstop, we believed in each other on the field; so I saw a big improvement.”
Port Jefferson senior defender Michelle Bourguignon said her team did not play Pierson-Bridgehampton during the regular season, but took them on last year. Leading up to the big game, her team practiced on turf to get used to the playing conditions, since the Royals’ home field is grass.
“To make it that far was a huge accomplishment,” she said. “We know they’re a very tough team, so that was pretty big for us to only be down 1-0 at halftime. Our team has always been very close and it’s going to be hard not being on the team anymore.”
The team’s camaraderie is what Debbie Brown said has been its biggest asset.
“I’ve had some extraordinarily talented teams, but this group worked hard every day,” she said. “A couple of seniors — Andreya Harvey and Michelle Bourguignon on defense, and Stacey Warm, one of our wings, junior Chiara Rabeno and freshmen Taylor Corallo and Phalina Sciara — really stepped up this year. It’s emotional because even though Jackie is my daughter, I consider them all one of my own.”
Corallo was one of the team’s key scorers until she broke her arm in a Sept. 19 game against Comsewogue.
Bourguignon earned All-Division honors for her work this season, Rabeno received an All-Conference nod, Harvey was named to the All-Tournament team and Brown earned All-County honors.
“Since the girls got a taste of playoffs this year, they’re going to want to get back there next year, so hopefully we’ll make it there again,” Jackie Brown said. “This season as a whole was pretty successful, considering that we hadn’t made playoffs since 2009, so the fact that we got that far, hopefully that carries into next season.”