By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller
What a week for the Pierson-Bridgehampton field hockey team. Three games, three wins, all against programs with New York State championship banners hanging in their gyms back home.
And now it’s the Lady Whalers turn to make a run at the ultimate prize.
Senior Katherine Matthers scored the game-winning goal, Kasey Gilbride had two goals and the Lady Whalers (13-4) claimed the Long Island Class C Championship with a 3-2 win over the Carle Place Lady Frogs Wednesday at Dowling College.
Pierson will play Pawling, the champion from Section I, in a Southeast Regional Final on Saturday at 1 p.m. at White Plains High School. The winner there will advance to the state Final Four the weekend of November 16 and 17 at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, where the Lady Whalers last played in 2010 when this year’s senior class were freshmen.
The Lady Whalers paraded down Main Street in Sag Harbor after their dramatic win on Wednesday, which was sealed with just over five minutes to play when Matthers scored off a corner from the left post position to give Pierson a 3-2 lead.
Both offenses got off to a slow start in the game. Gilbride’s first goal came with 5:46 remaining in the first half, putting an end to a sluggish start for the Lady Whalers. Pierson’s all-everything senior leader dribbled through the Carle Place defense and knocked in a goal to cap a miraculous overall play.
“Kasey’s goal was like an angel came down from heaven,” head coach Shannon Judge said. “We had a very bad 25 minutes to start the game. In the second half we came out a different team.”
The Lady Whalers dominated the action in the second half and finished with 26 shots on goal. Lydia Rice, who is only a sophomore, was phenomenal in goal for Carle Place and finished with 23 saves.
“I knew how good she was and that she would push us to our limits,” Gilbride said. “She really brought out the best in us.”
Carle Place took a 2-1 lead with 18:33 remaining on Elissa Frein’s second goal of the game. Gilbride charged back immediately and scored her second goal less than a minute later.
Pierson’s offense dominated the next 10 minutes and finished with 13 corners, several of which were earned by seventh-grader Holly Schleicher, compared to just four for Carle Place.
At the same time, the Lady Whalers’ defense stiffened with Erica Selyukova and India Hemby locking down the midfield and Rachel Miller and Kirra McGowin protecting goalie Sam Duchemin, who needed just two saves to preserve the win.
Suffolk Crown Came With Win Over Southampton
Last Thursday, playing at Dowling on Halloween night, the Lady Whalers scored three second-half goals to knock off rival Southampton in the Suffolk County Class C Championship game.
Emme Luck opened the scoring early in the second half and Gilbride added two goals to close out the win.
It was Southampton a year ago that hoisted the championship plaque after defeating Pierson, 2-0, a memory that was fresh in the minds of the Pierson players on Thursday.
“A little vindication,” Gilbride said, smiling, after a wild celebration with her teammates at center field.
Gilbride scored her second goal of the game late to ice the championship.
“We upped our intensity, we wanted it 10 times more in the second half,” Matthers said.
“It became more real in the second half,” Gilbride added. “We had to get down to business and do what we do best.”
Pierson’s defense, which was led by McGowin, Miller, Selyukova and Cali Cafiero, completely shut down the Southampton attack.
The Lady Whalers returned to Dowling on Saturday and won the Suffolk Small Schools title game with a 1-0 overtime win over Class B Champion Miller Place, which finished atop the Division III standings this fall after having lost just a single game.
Judge said she believed it was the first ever Small School championship for the Lady Whalers.
“Everyone is saying we’re on a roll, but honestly, I don’t think we’re on a roll,” Gilbride said after Wednesday’s win, still in shock from having won the Long Island title. “This is just who we are.”