After polishing off Port Jefferson in its regular-season finale, 6-0, Tuesday afternoon, the Southold High School boys soccer team must now play the waiting game.
And it probably won’t be once, but twice.
The First Settlers are awaiting the go-ahead to compete in the Suffolk County Class C final after petitioning Section XI. According to section rules, teams must finish at least .500 in league play to reach the postseason, but since Southold (7-8-1, 7-8-1) plays in a B-C league, there are extenuating circumstances.
Given how they have performed during the latter part of the season with some of the eye-catching results, it probably will be a formality.
Interim head coach Lucas Grigonis stated his case after his team’s game at Scraggy Road Field in Port Jefferson.
“Character, mental strength, attitude,” he said. “That’s the only way we got here. We’ve lost only three of the last 11 games and playing in a mixed league. I think we proved we can pretty much hang with anyone.”
Southold went an impressive 7-3-1 in those 11 games. Two wins were against Hampton Bays and Babylon, which qualified for the Class B playoffs with a scoreless draw with League VII champion Southampton.
“We’re working hard,” said Daniel Palencia, who recorded his first hat trick during the second half.
Co-captain and senior goalkeeper Cole Brigham, who recorded Southold’s fourth shutout, concurred. “I feel we definitely deserve to be in the playoffs,” he said. “We worked hard the entire season, especially the second half. We started beating those B teams and showed that we were a force to be reckoned with in this league.”
Southold’s foe in the Class C final at Diamond in the Pines in Coram on Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. is likely to be rival Greenport (5-9-2, 5-9-2), which also has petitioned. The schools should know their postseason fate by Friday.
Which would mean they will play another waiting game with a 10-day layoff between games.
Grigonis already has plans. “A few days off from the get-go,” he said. “We have a few scrimmages scheduled as well.”
He added that he wanted to raise the training intensity. “Instead of having five really hard practices, you try to build up to that game on that day,” Grigonis said. “We want to have everyone feeling as fresh as they can be, mentally and physically.”
Given the team’s attitude, it might be a challenge to put the brakes on some players.
“It’s all about staying focused in practice,” Brigham said. “We have to work hard and keep on pushing ourselves.”
Most coaches would love to have problems like that. They also would love to have games like what transpired on Tuesday.
The Settlers grabbed a 2-0 halftime lead on the first of Joseph Silvestro’s two scores (9 minutes and 19 seconds into the game) and an own goal (12:48) before Palencia showcased his finishing touch. He connected for his hat trick during a span of 18:14 after Silvestro tallied only 13 seconds into the second half against the Royals (1-15, 1-15).
The junior midfielder took advantage of a poor clearance and smashed a 30-yarder home at 41:49, converted a flick on by Silvestro at 44:57 and drilled a 20-yard bullet into the upper right corner of the net at 60:03.
Palencia called his first hat trick “very special.”
“Three quality goals,” Grigonis said. “Overdue for a hat trick. Just solid. When he puts himself in places to get opportunities, he does really well. Very pleased and very happy for him.”
The day turned out to be special for nine players who did not see any action. Grigonis brought nine junior varsity players to the game so they could discover what life is for a probable playoff-bound team.
The players watched from the bench.
“I thought nine kids deserved it,” Grigonis said. “Not based on ability necessarily. On their attitude, through their leadership on JV this year. We try to reward kids for those intangibles rather than you’re the best one.”
There might be another reward.
“There’s potential to give out a jersey or two for the playoffs, but now it’s just an experience and to motivate them for the future,” Grigonis said.
The Settlers hope a Class C final is in their immediate future.