Kasey Gilbride and Katherine Matthers, senior captains for the Pierson field hockey team, know what it’s like to play for a state championship. As freshmen, they were important members of a team that fell just short of a state title, losing in the Class C final in overtime.
Since then, earning another trip to states, and getting another chance, has been foremost on their minds and on the minds of their teammates as well.
And they played like it in the Long Island Championship game on November 6.
On the strength of two goals by Gilbride and one by Matthers, Pierson edged Carle Place, 3-2, at the Dowling Sports Complex, putting them just one win away from a trip to Syracuse. The Lady Whalers got that win three days later, beating Pawling (Section I) in the regional final at White Plains High School to stamp their ticket to the state final four.
Against Carle Place, Matthers tallied the game-winner with 5:23 left in the game, putting home a shot that had rebounded off the goalie’s pads, and her team held on for the win. Gilbride opened the scoring with six minutes left in the first half, off one of her trademark highlight-reel long runs down the field. She dodged a barrage of defenders before getting into a one-on-one situation with Carle Place goalie Lydia Rice, making one final nice move to put the ball past her and give her team a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Frogs tied it up with 2:39 left in the half, making it 1-1 at the break, and they took a 2-1 lead with 18:38 left in the game off a goal from Elissa Frein. Gilbride answered quickly after, however, scoring on a reverse sweep shot during a broken corner play to make it 2-2 with 17:45 left.
The Lady Whalers dominated possession in the second half and, after Gilbride’s second goal, pounded the Carle Place defense with corner after corner, creating great scoring chances. During that stretch, Rice made a series of impeccable saves, diving to stop some shots while also making both boot and glove saves on hard drives that came right at her. Matthers finally broke through with less than six minutes to play, and Carle Place never seriously threatened to score after that.
Rice made 23 saves in the loss for Carle Place. Pierson finished with 26 shots on goal and 13 corners, while goalie Sam Duchemin made two saves. Carle Place had just four corners and five shots on goal.
After the game, Gilbride said that she and her teammates knew that scoring on Rice would be no easy task.
“I’ve played with her for a year and against her for a year and a half,” she said, referring to travel teams. “So I knew how good she was. She really pushed us to our limits and brought out the best in us, so I have to thank her for that.”
Despite Rice’s outstanding play, in the second half the Lady Whalers made it look like it was only a matter of time before they’d be hoisting the Long Island Championship plaque. That wasn’t the case in the first half, however, as Pierson struggled to get going offensively, in similar fashion to its county championship win over Southampton, where the game was scoreless at halftime before Pierson went on to win 3-0.
“We’re a second-half team, so we really put everything together in the second half and really finished strong,” Gilbride said.
Head coach Shannon Judge agreed.
“We had a very bad first 25 minutes of the first half,” she said. “We were letting [Carle Place] set the tone, and our key players were choppy, letting them pass around us. We were not playing team defense. In the second half, we came out a different team. We had the will to win, and the heart. Every person was on and was doing their job.”
Gilbride and the rest of her teammates are just happy that they’ll still have a job to do for the rest of the week, thanks to their Long Island title win.
“It really feels amazing,” she said. “I still can’t believe it happened. It hasn’t set in yet. It probably won’t until the next game.”