It was a victory that was a year in the making.
In a rematch of last year’s Suffolk County final, the Southampton field hockey team defeated defending New York State Class C champion Pierson, 2-1, at the Dowling Sports Complex in Shirley on October 30.
The Lady Mariners did not lose any players to graduation from last year’s team, which lost to the Lady Whalers, 3-0, in the county final in 2013. Pierson, by contrast, brought back only a few experienced players from what was a senior-laden team. And while Pierson still possesses one of the top players in the county, forward Ana Sherwood, Southampton’s superior depth and experience was enough to push it past its rival this time around, giving the Lady Mariners their first Suffolk County title since 2009, a year when they advanced to the state final.
Southampton’s Chloe Schmidt put her team on the board with 19 minutes left in the first half, scoring off an assist from Meggie Gallo during a corner. The Lady Mariners went up 2-0 with 25:49 left in the second half when Gallo scored on a penalty stroke. Pierson cut the lead to 2-1 when Erica Selyukova deflected in a hard shot off the stick of Ana Sherwood during a corner. Southampton was awarded another stroke with 14:29 left to play, but Pierson goalie Charlotte Johnson saved Gallo’s attempt.
Pierson had a flurry of corners toward the end of the game, and took one shot that went just wide left, but Southampton held on for the win. Junior Alex Ambrose, who was celebrating her 16th birthday, was the winning goalie for Southampton.
The Lady Mariners (10-6) were scheduled to take on Suffolk County Class B champion Rocky Point for the Small Schools title on Tuesday, November 4, at Dowling at 2 p.m. Coverage of that game is in this week’s news section and at 27east.com. It is not an elimination game—win or lose, Southampton will face Nassau County champion Carle Place (15-1) on Sunday, November 9, at 4 p.m. at Adelphi University.
Southampton head coach Jess Zukosky acknowledged that she and her team had been anticipating a return to the county final since the loss to Pierson last year, and admitted they expected a different result this time.
“It feels good,” she said after the game. “Last year, when we lost here, we were upset, but we weren’t that upset, because we knew we’d be back. I think if we had lost this year, I would have been very upset—not just because it would have been the last game, but because they’re a legit team now.”
Assessing her team’s performance in the game, Zukosky said her players had some shaky moments in the second half, but ultimately prevailed.
“I think our first half, we played very well. In the second half, we got a little panicky, but I think it’s just because [Pierson] has that one weapon on their team that makes us a little nervous,” she said, referring to Sherwood. “I think we were able to stay composed and pull it off.”
For her part, Pierson head coach Shannon Judge said that while the loss was disappointing, she’s excited about what her young team can accomplish in the future. Pierson will bring back its top four leading goal scorers—Sherwood, Cali Cafiero, Erica Selyukova and eighth-grader Hollie Schleicher—as well as midfielder/defender Allura Leggard. Goalie Johnson (eight saves), an eighth-grader, will return as well, along with goalie Sheila Mackey, who split time in the cage with Johnson this year. A slew of eighth-graders and freshmen who either started or saw significant time on the field will be back as well, and Judge added she’s excited for two Bridgehampton freshmen, Claudia Paterson and Autumn Street, to join the team after successfully leading the junior varsity this year.
“I am very proud of the team,” she said. “A few girls know what it takes to win a championship, so with those girls—Ana, Cali, Allura and Erica—still being young, the next two years should be filled with championships.”
While the entire Southampton team was excited after the game, evidenced by a lengthy celebration and plenty of hugs and smiles, junior goalie Ambrose was particularly ecstatic, celebrating her birthday and a county championship on the same day.
Ambrose was the starting goalie for the Lady Mariners as a freshman when they advanced to the state championship game. It was her first year on the varsity and first year playing goalie, after playing on the field as a defender in junior high. She said she’s come a long way since then.
“In my freshman year, I went from never being in the cage to going to states,” she said. “Every day was so hard. I cried a lot, because I was nervous, and it was totally different.”
Ambrose has fully embraced her role on the team now, however, saying she “wouldn’t be anywhere else” than in goal. She said the latest county title win was particularly sweet.
“We didn’t lose anybody last year, so it felt like we almost deserved it after all the work we put in,” she said. “I feel like Pierson really came out and worked hard, though, considering all the people they lost last year. But I’m excited to see where our postseason goes.”
She paused, then hopped up and down a bit, her smiling growing even wider: “I’m so excited!”