By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller
Katherine Matthers, it seems, has a flair for the dramatic. And now she and her Lady Whalers teammates will take their show on the road to Syracuse.
Pierson’s senior co-captain scored the game-winning goal with 5:36 remaining in double overtime to beat Pawling, 1-0, in a New York State Southeast Regional Class C field hockey final at White Plains High School on Saturday.
Pierson-Bridgehampton will resume its run toward a state title this Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School with a semifinal game at 1:30 p.m. against Whitney Point, which knocked off perennial powerhouse Greene last week to win Section IV.
Two familiar foes will face each other in the second semifinal game on Saturday, with Barker Central, which lost to Pierson in the 2010 state semifinal, facing Cazenovia, which went on to win the championship that year with a 1-0 overtime win over Pierson.
The Class C championship will follow on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
The goal by Matthers on Saturday was assisted by Kasey Gilbride and ended an otherwise frustrating afternoon filled with missed chances, controversial penalty calls and a nail-biting final few moments.
“We were so close so many times and we couldn’t get it in,” Matthers said afterwards before turning her attention to Gilbride, who dribbled the ball roughly 60 yards before finding Matthers in front of the cage for the game-winner. “We rely on each other and are confident in each other. We have a lot of trust in each other.”
It was the second consecutive game that Matthers scored the winning goal to advance the Lady Whalers in the state tournament, the first coming last Wednesday, November 6 in a 3-2 win over Carle Place in the Long Island Championship.
“Call her Miss November,” her father, Jim, joked afterwards.
But in all seriousness, Matthers seems to shine brightest as the stakes grow higher. Her performance over the last week is somewhat of a repeat from 2010, when as a freshman she scored game-winners in both the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the Class C tournament.
“Katherine is all heart,” Pierson coach Shannon Judge said. “She finds a way to be in the right place at the right time.”
Pawling controlled the tempo for most of the first half on Saturday, but failed to breakthrough Pierson’s defensive front, which was anchored by Matthers, India Hemby, Kirra McGowin and Rachel Miller. Goaltender Sam Duchemin was rarely challenged and did not require a save all afternoon.
“For me, being the sweeper, I really focus on staying low and beating other girls to the ball,” McGowin said afterwards.
“Communication was the key,” Hemby chimed in. “It was really hard to transition from offense to defense. It took us a while to get it there, but finally we broke through and executed.”
Referees called off three would-be Pierson goals when they said the shots hit either the feet or bodies of other Pierson players before going into the cage. The near misses caused frustration levels to rise, players said, and as a result the Lady Whalers found trouble halfway through the first overtime.
Gilbride was issued a card with 5:12 remaining after a brief confrontation with a player from Pawling, requiring her to sit for the next two minutes. Pawling took advantage moments later and fired a shot on goal only to find Matthers lunging across the circle to knock the ball out of bounds with a perfectly-timed defensive save.
“When Kasey went out, we just had to stall time to get her back in,” Matthers said later.
Pierson freshman Ana Sherwood was called for another penalty early in the second overtime, although the Lady Whalers played shorthanded for only 30 seconds when Pawling’s Lauren Folchetti was sent to the sideline for a two-minute penalty as well.
The result was six-on-six hockey, a scenario that provided Gilbride and Matthers enough space to work their magic.
“Kasey’s skills can really shine,” Judge said when asked about her team’s ability to score with so few players on the field. “In the last timeout I told them we would score in the next two minutes, and I think it was 45 seconds later.”