WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - It almost happened again: Kasey Gilbride sitting on the bench as Pierson/Bridgehampton's field hockey season came to an end, as it did in the Suffolk final her junior season.
Gilbride was issued a card with 5:12 remaining in overtime, which required the Whalers superstar to sit for two minutes. And Pawling took advantage, driving the field and lashing a shot toward the left corner with 3:26 left that would have sent Pierson/Bridehampton home.
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It almost did.
What did happen, was another superb play from Katherine Matthers. The defender sprinted across the circle as the shot was launched and lunged, poking the ball out of bounds for a defensive save.
Gilbride got her reprieve and made it count in double overtime. The senior ignited a fast break, outran the pursuit 64 yards into the circle and made a slick, behind-the-back cross pass to -- who else? -- Matthers on the left post, who then slapped it in with 5:36 left.
So ended a taut, physical contest and the Whalers finally could exhale after squeaking out a dramatic 1-0 victory in the Class C regional final. With that, Pierson earned a berth to Saturday's state semifinals at Cicero-North Syracuse.
"We kept telling ourselves, 'Pain is temporary, but this is forever,'" Gilbride said of the grueling two overtimes. She was carded, officially, for retaliating with a shove after an opponent threw a punch.
With small rosters, both teams' substitutions were limited and by the end, several Whalers were bloodied and exhausted. Midfielder Erica Selyukova said the victory was a testament to the team's conditioning.
"A bunch of us have been working out together at Integrated Exercise Therapy," she said. "I think all the training and preparation gave us a little extra to keep pushing, because we wanted this so badly."
And it was Matthers who delivered it . . . again. The senior also scored the winner in the LI championship on Wednesday, as she had in 2010, when the Whalers last reached the state tournament.
"It's luck," Matthers said with a grin. "It's just chance that it's happened to be me in these games. Right places at the right times, I guess."
Coach Shannon Judge differed: "It's become normal for her and we expect these big moments now. Katherine consistently puts herself in positions and situations to succeed."
Pawling controlled much of the first half, but India Hemby and Matthers anchored a defense that didn't allow a shot on goal. Pierson/Bridgehampton (14-4) dominated the second half but had nothing to show for it, and a goal was waved off in the first overtime as the shot deflected in off a teammates' body.
But all that mattered not, Gilbride said, "because we're going to states!"