When the Pierson field hockey team beat Sayville on October 21, it effectively locked up the number one seed in the Suffolk County Class C playoffs and made the team’s final regular season game against Rocky Point meaningless, in terms of playoff seeding. But in a road game against the Lady Eagles, one of the top teams in Division III, on Thursday, the Lady Whalers still played like a team on a mission and it showed, resulting in a 3-2 win.
Pierson (10-4) finished third in Division III with 141.440 power points, ahead of Rocky Point (8-6, 9-7 overall, 132.850), and behind only Miller Place (13-1, 14-1, 176.430) and Sayville (9-5, 10-6, 146.430).
By getting the top seed, the Lady Whalers earned a bye into the Class C county final, which will take place at the Dowling Sports Complex in Shirley on Thursday, October 31, at 6:30 p.m. They will take on No. 2 Southampton.
Southampton is the defending county champ and advanced all the way to the state final last year before losing to powerhouse Greene. Pierson and Southampton did not face each other in the regular season.
Pierson was expected to be one of the stronger teams in the division, with a slew of seniors as well as one of the top players on Long Island, Kasey Gilbride, who is headed to Division I University of Richmond next year. But it wasn’t until the second half of the season that the Lady Whalers began playing like a powerhouse. Pierson was 3-4 in the first half of the season, with losses to East Hampton, Rocky Point, Sayville and Miller Place. In the second half, the Lady Whalers were 6-1, won five straight games to end the season, and avenged all of their first-half losses except the one to first-place Miller Place.
“We definitely have been on a roll,” Pierson head coach Shannon Judge said when asked about her team’s success in the second part of the season. “We are playing as a unit. People are solidified in their positions now, whereas I was playing around with a few different things throughout.”
The Lady Whalers put on a nice display of a team effort in the win over Rocky Point. The Lady Eagles took a 2-1 lead at halftime, but Pierson shut them out in the second half. Left midfielder Erica Selyukova tied the score with 15:20 left to play, scoring off a rebound off the goalie’s pads. And freshman Cali Cafiero tallied the game-winner, off an assist from senior Emme Luck, who had taken a shot at the top of the circle. Her shot hit the goalie’s pads, and Cafiero collected the rebound and put it home with 9:08 left in the game.
Rocky Point pressed hard to try to tie the score, but Pierson’s defense held strong. Defender Kirra McGowin made a key defensive save near the end of the game, while Allura Leggard, who plays flier defensively for Pierson on corners, prevented the ball from entering the circle on a Rocky Point corner in the last two minutes, turning it into a fast break opportunity for her team.
Kasey Gilbride scored the first goal for Pierson off an assist from Katherine Matthers with 13:54 left in the first half, which tied the game at 1-1.
Judge said that many of her players, in several positions, did a great job in the Rocky Point win. She credited senior defender India Hemby with keeping Rocky Point’s offense at bay, particularly blunting its attack from the right side. She said Selyukova was key in keeping Rocky Point’s right side attack at bay as well, and she also credited sophomore Ana Sherwood for making several nice offensive breakaways. Luck, Judge said, did a nice job bringing the ball up the right side, and she added that both Gilbride and Matthers played their usual strong games.
The East Hampton field hockey team’s season came to an end on October 24 after a 1-0 loss at Harborfields. The Lady Bonackers finished with a 6-8 mark and were eighth in Division III with 100.410 power points, behind Harborfields (7-7, 113.580). The Lady Bonackers were two spots out of a playoff spot in Class B. To qualify for the playoffs, East Hampton would have had to finish in the top four among the eight Class B teams in the division. While they were eighth overall, they were sixth among Class B teams. East Hampton’s record isn’t indicative of how well it played throughout the course of the season. The Lady Bonackers lost five games by one goal, four of them in overtime. They also beat two playoff teams—Shoreham/Wading River and Pierson—earlier in the season. East Hampton should be a strong team next year, losing only five players to graduation—Casey Waleko, Kathryn Wood, Cecilia Fioriello, Mary Nolan and Shannon McCaffrey. While all five of those players saw significant time, East Hampton will also bring back several talented players, including Amanda Calabrese, Alyssa Bahel, Grace Amaden and Sophia DePasquale, the leading producers on offense, and starting goalie Leonella Acevedo.