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After Hot Start, Whitman’s Skid Hits Three 

Oscar Alfaro uses his head.

The Walt Whitman varsity boys soccer team began the 2013 season on a torrid pace, winning their first 10 games and earning a lofty top 15 state ranking.

Lately, however, the road hasn’t been so easy. They have stumbled into a three-game losing streak, getting defeated by league rivals that they had been victorious against earlier in the year.

Their most recent heartbreak came on Tuesday afternoon at Northport High School. This rematch was highly anticipated by fans and players alike as their earlier meeting was a thrilling extra-time 3-2 win by the Wildcats at Walt Whitman High School.

The home fans were overheard mentioning the success and talent that Whitman has had this season, including the importance of each game moving forward to keep Northport’s playoff chances alive.

Early on, the momentum and pace was dictated exclusively by Northport (5-4-2, 5-4-4), a distinct difference from their first matchup. Whitman (8-3-0, 10-3-0) came out flat on the road, finding it difficult to find any spacing for high-percentage shots. Before attendees could warm up with the first sip of their evening coffees, the Tigers had already heated up the scoreboard with an early goal 6 minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead.

Whitman countered with a brief attack led by Michael Lorello and Darwin Hernandez, who traded shots on back-to-back scoring chances. For the rest of the first half, the Wildcats were stymied by Northport’s prevalent defense deployed to reduce the risk of Whitman’s explosive countering offense. This strategy worked, as the Tigers had controlled the midfield, momentum and emotions of the game up until that point.

The second half for Whitman was as rocky as the field they were playing on. Accustomed to the pristine field turf at their home field, many balls took misguided bounces off the uneven ground, which Northport took swift advantage of. The Wildcats’ normally smooth and efficient offense turned into mistimed and lost opportunities. The super-talented Wildcats continued to struggle as time continued to tick away.

Northport’s goalie made some key saves, but none was bigger than his save of Lorello’s point-blank blast from inside the box. To further his outstanding effort, he followed the save with a punt that sailed in the air for what seemed like an eternity, descending like a hot-air balloon to the foot of his teammate deep into Whitman territory. With one defender to beat, the Tigers put away their second goal of the game to take a 2-0 lead with 27 minutes to play.

The Wildcats did their best to make a late and heroic run but could not overcome the deficit. A few late corner kicks added some excitement to the inevitable defeat which, for the first time all season, unveiled frustrated faces on the Whitman sidelines.

Look for Whitman to rebound as they take on Bay Shore at home on Thursday, Oct. 17at 3:30 p.m. Next week, they finish off their regular season schedule with a big match at first-place Central Islip (9-1, 10-1) on Oct. 21 at 4 p.m. and versus Connetquot (2-8, 2-10) at home on Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m.

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