Just call her Miss November.
For the second game in a row, senior Katherine Matthers scored the winning goal for the Pierson field hockey team, and on Saturday afternoon at White Plains High School, her strike sent the Lady Whalers to the state final four.
With 5:36 left in the second sudden-victory overtime session against Pawling High School in the Class C Southeast Regional Final on Saturday, Matthers pushed the ball between the legs of Pawling goalie Catie Dickinson, off an assist from senior teammate Kasey Gilbride, who had carried the ball down the right sideline and into the circle before dishing off to Matthers. Gilbride was forced far right by a pair of Pawling defenders and was in an awkward position to make a pass, but managed to pop the ball over to Matthers, who made good on it.
A few days earlier, in the Class C Long Island Championship game, Matthers scored another winner in a 3-2 victory over Carle Place.
The 1-0 win on Saturday means that Pierson will make its first trip to states since 2010, when Gilbride and Matthers played key roles as freshmen on a team that lost in overtime to Cazenovia in the state championship game.
The Lady Whalers will take on Whitney Point (14-4) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the semifinals at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Barker (16-1) and Cazenovia (15-4-1) will face off in the other semifinal at 3:30 p.m. The winner will play for the state crown the next day at 12:30 p.m.
In what seems to have become a pattern, the Lady Whalers had a lackluster first half, struggling to get into a rhythm on offense, and picked it up in the second half, although on Saturday they still had nothing to show for it. Pierson had the additional frustration of having three apparent goals called back by the referees—one in each half, and one in the first overtime session.
The Lady Whalers also had to survive having players sent out for penalties twice, one in each overtime session, which forced them to play shorthanded. In the first overtime, Gilbride was sent to the sidelines for a two-minute penalty after the officials ruled she had gotten too physical with a Pawling defender. Pierson head coach Shannon Judge was unhappy with the call. A Pawling defender had committed an obstruction foul and held Gilbride—Judge said the official later acknowledged the point—and Gilbride was issued the penalty after pushing herself free from the player. In the second overtime, Ana Sherwood, another of Pierson’s top offensive players, was issued a penalty, although a Pawling player was sent out for a penalty not much later, negating the advantage for the Lady Tigers.
After the game, Matthers said that while it was frustrating that it took her team so long to seal the win, she and her teammates felt confident throughout. “I said after the first overtime that this is the most annoying game I’ve ever played in,” she said. “We had so many opportunities and just couldn’t get it in. After the first overtime, Kasey said, ‘They’re tired—just use our skill now.’”
It wasn’t a shock to anyone that Matthers and Gilbride teamed up for the game-winning goal. The year-round players, who both compete on travel teams, have been teammates on varsity for four years and have a special bond on the field.
“I think we definitely rely on each other a lot, and we’re able to be confident that the other is going to pick up the slack if one of us is slacking,” Matthers said. “We have a lot of trust in each other. It makes playing so much easier. I love playing with her.”
Judge said she felt good about her team’s chances in overtime, where the number of players on the field is narrowed from 11 to seven for each team, making a more open game conducive to fast-break opportunities.
“Kasey’s kills can just really shine,” she said. “And Katherine is just all heart. And she has the ability to pass and be a one-on-one player as well. I just really have faith in them.”
Judge wasn’t too happy with the way her team played for the first half and in stretches of the second half, but credited her defense—particularly India Hemby, Rachel Miller and Kirra McGowin—with keeping the team in the game.