Before she even began middle school, it was obvious to anyone paying attention that Kasey Gilbride was a pure athlete. The question wasn’t if Gilbride would excel in sports as a teenager—it was more a matter of which one would most convincingly capture her interest and, perhaps, extend her playing days beyond the high school level.
The answer: field hockey.
On Thursday, Gilbride, a Pierson senior, signed her national letter of intent to play for the University of Richmond, a Division I program that has established itself as one of the most competitive in the country. Gilbride capped off her illustrious field hockey career at Pierson in a way most athletes only dream about. She scored the game-winning goal with 30 seconds left in double-overtime to lift Pierson to its first ever field hockey state championship in November, exacting revenge on Cazenovia, the team that beat Pierson in overtime to win the state title in 2010, when Gilbride was a starting freshman midfielder.
It would be hard to argue that Gilbride isn’t the best field hockey player to ever don a Lady Whalers uniform, and a case can be made that she’s also the best female athlete in the school’s history. Gilbride, a six-year varsity player, became the first athlete, male or female, in Pierson history to earn All-Region honors in her sport, which she achieved as a senior. She was an All-County, All-State, All-Tournament and All-Long Island selection as a sophomore, junior and senior, and was an All-State player as a freshman as well. She holds the Pierson record for most goals in a season with 28, and led Long Island in scoring as a senior. Gilbride played field hockey extensively in the off season on a travel team, and also was named to the USA Futures Elite squad in both 2013 and 2014. While her field hockey pursuits alone could have kept her busy on a year-round basis, Gilbride also has played a key role on Pierson’s varsity basketball team as a starting guard and one of the team’s leading scorers, and if she wanted to, she probably could have played softball in college. Gilbride has been a varsity player for the softball team since she was in eighth grade, and has been an All-County softball player since her freshman year. She earned All-State honors last season as well.
Field hockey wouldn’t have been the safe bet as Gilbride’s primary ticket to sports stardom, particularly when she was in elementary school. At that time, gymnastics was her biggest passion, and she spent six days a week training and at Riverside Gymnastics (now Gymnation) in Riverhead, part of what was an eight-year career as a competitive gymnast. Gilbride said a shift in focus happened when she began seventh grade.
“I decided I wanted to play sports and not have to travel 45 minutes every day,” she said. “I wanted to hang out with my friends.”
Pierson varsity field hockey coach Shannon Judge, who is also a phys ed teacher at Pierson, encouraged Gilbride to pick up a field hockey stick after watching her play the sport in gym class. It took a while for Gilbride to develop a passion for the sport, but eventually, it clicked.
“Once I got better at it, it became very fun,” she said. “When I became more confident, that’s when I really started to have fun with it and to have my own style.”
Judge said she knew right away that Gilbride had the talent to excel at field hockey, but wanted to make sure she could handle pressure at a young age. So in the first game of the season, Judge had Gilbride take a penalty stroke for the varsity team, as an eighth-grader. Gilbride scored on the stroke, and it’s a moment Judge said she’ll never forget.
“I had complete faith in her as an athlete anyway, but especially from that point on,” the coach said.
Gilbride said the decision to pursue field hockey after high school happened two years ago.
“It was either going to be field hockey or softball,” she said. “I would go to field hockey tournaments, and when there would be five minutes left in the game, I would always wish there was more time. And that wouldn’t always be the case with softball.”
Gilbride’s deft stick skills and her tenacious style of play earned her plenty of attention from college coaches, including Gina Lucido, the head coach at Richmond. Gilbride said she felt an instant connection with Lucido when they spoke on the phone for the first time, saying Lucido reminded her of head softball coach and assistant field hockey coach Melissa Edwards, who Gilbride describes as “family.” Gildbride’s choice to attend Richmond was solidified when she visited the school last spring, she said.
“I got the full experience of being an athlete there, and the size and support from the community is exactly like Pierson and Sag Harbor, so I loved it there,” she said.
Richmond got the nod over the University of Massachusetts, the other school Gilbride was strongly considering.
Because of her immense talent, Gilbride played a variety of roles for Pierson during her high school career, but her role will be more defined at Richmond, where she is expected to play as an “offensive-minded” defender. Gilbride is humble when it comes to discussing her goals and expectations for her freshman year, admitting she will have a lot to learn as she adjusts to the higher level of competition.
“I just want to try to adapt as quickly as possible and be a big help in games,” she said.
Judge is confident that Gilbride will not only adapt quickly, but excel.
“Kasey’s strength along with ball control is what sets her apart and will make her excel at the next level,” she said. “Each year she exponentially improves, and knowing her passion and work ethic, I believe this will translate throughout her Division 1 career and hopefully beyond.”
Gilbride isn’t sure what she’ll focus on yet in the classroom, saying she is interested in studying psychology but also is drawn to careers that revolve around sports, such as being a physical trainer or a gym teacher. For now, she’s just preparing for the next level while also reflecting on what got her there, particularly the state championship season.
“It was just a dream,” she said of winning the title. “I go through the moment in my head and it’s an amazing feeling but it also doesn’t really feel real. I’m waiting for that banner to go up in the gym to make it feel more real. It was awesome I could finish it that way.”
Gilbride made sure to mention the system of support that helped her achieve her athletic dreams. She gave credit to her parents, Kevin and Nicole Gilbride, as well as coaches Edwards and Judge. Gilbride also gave credit to the staff at Integrated Exercise Therapy in Bridgehampton, where she trained with Andrew Reilly and Molly McDonald. Their expertise, she said, helped develop the stamina and endurance to spend countless hours competing in several sports, and she said they helped her heal from crippling shin splints.
She also gave credit to her older brother, Tyler, who was also a standout three-sport athlete for Pierson and is currently a junior at High Point University in North Carolina.
“I always tried to beat him and be better than him, and I think because I grew up watching him, that was why I’m as competitive and athletic as I am today,” she said, adding that he has promised to make the three-hour drive from North Carolina, with his frat buddies, to cheer her on in games in the fall.