By Gavin Menu
The fallout from two major rulings by Section XI, the governing body of high school athletics in Suffolk County, together clashed on the field at Sachem North High School Monday afternoon with the county Class C field hockey championship on the line.
The Pierson-Bridgehampton Lady Whalers, who after the regular season successfully petitioned Section XI for a playoff berth after failing to finish among the top-six teams in division play, lost, 2-0, to rival Southampton in a game that was not as close as the score might indicate.
The Lady Mariners, who had a slew of solid scoring chances, claimed their first county field hockey crown since 2003 and on Tuesday went on to win the Long Island Class C Championship with a 2-1 win over Friends Academy, the Nassau County champion. With that win, Southampton advanced to the New York State tournament this weekend in Syracuse.
The Lady Whalers dominated the first ten minutes of the game on Monday but failed to mount any real scoring threat. Toward the end of the first half, Southampton as a team flipped an internal switch and rode two second-half goals by Keeling Pilaro and Meggie Gallo to victory.
Pilaro, a freshman who is the only male varsity field hockey player on Long Island, broke the scoreless tie off a corner with 16:32 remaining in the second half, sending a laser shot into the back of the net past rookie goalie Emma Romeo, who made 11 saves for the Lady Whalers to prevent the game from becoming a blowout.
After competing as an eighth-grader last season, Pilaro, 14, was originally barred from playing on the otherwise all-girls team this season until a council of athletic directors working under Section XI reversed an earlier ruling, thereby allowing him to join the field hockey team again this season.
Pilaro had a standout year but was held in relative check on Monday by Pierson’s Allura Leggard, who was one of three eighth graders on the team this year. The inexperience showed on Monday, as Southampton had 10 corners in the game to Pierson’s one, with both the Lady Mariners’ goals coming off corners. The Lady Whalers failed to put a single shot on goal in the game.
Pierson’s team in general started the year with an inexperienced roster, with Rachel Saidman as the lone senior on the team. In some ways, the team’s success this year, having finished with an 8-7 record with wins against a number of quality teams, including Southampton, was a surprise.
“I told them after the game they far exceeded my expectations,” head coach Shannon Judge said. “I think they did really well this year.”
That being said, Judge was disappointed with the team’s performance on Monday. Her star player Kasey Gilbride struggled in the midfield against Southampton’s defense and was unable to break into the circle for any real scoring chances. India Hemby, Emme Luck and Katherine Matthers, who, along with Gilbride, made up the team’s offensive core this season, also struggled for much of the game.
“They are a very good team, and this was not one of our best performances,” Gilbride said after the game had ended. Gilbride and Judge both struggled to point out exactly what went wrong on Monday, choosing instead to focus on the potential of next season just moments after this one had ended.
“We only will graduate Rachel, who we are going to miss a lot, but our senior class next year will be solid,” said Gilbride, who will enter her senior year next fall along with Hemby, Luck, Matthers, Romeo and defender Kirra McGowin. “With our senior class next year, we are going to be a dominant team.”
And with that, the Lady Whalers walked off into the offseason without another banner for the gym back in Sag Harbor.