Pierson/Bridgehampton returns to state final four

Pierson/Bridgehampton's Kasey Gilbride reacts after scoring a goal Pierson/Bridgehampton's Kasey Gilbride reacts after scoring a goal in the first period. (Nov. 6, 2013) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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It's beginning to look a lot like . . . 2010.

Pierson/Bridgehampton is back in the field hockey state semifinals, and the way in which it has done it is eerily similar to the run three years ago when the Whalers reached the state final.

That season, the Whalers eked out close victories in the playoffs, and Katherine Matthers seemed to carry a bag full of magic for late-game situations. The defender scored the first goals of her career in the postseason -- the winners in the Long Island championship and the state semifinal.

Pierson/Bridgehampton (14-4) is here this season, having won its last three playoff games in overtime. And last week Matthers, now a senior, scored the winner in overtime of the Long Island championship and another in double overtime of the Class C regional final against Pawling.

"It's a similar feeling, but it's different this time because we're seniors now," Matthers said. "I can't wait for states. It's gonna be a six-hour ride, but it's going to be awesome."

The Whalers are hoping for a better finish than in 2010 when they lost 1-0 in overtime of the state final. They play Whitney Point (14-4) in the state semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

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Pierson/Bridgehampton is led by senior Kasey Gilbride, a two-time Newsday All-Long Island player headed to Richmond. The forward/midfielder is tied for the Long Island lead with 35 points (26 goals). Gilbride is a softball star and former high-level gymnast, and her athleticism is evident as she maneuvers quickly and easily around the field. But it's her stick skills, tenacity and an array of powerful shots that have made her a standout. She scored the winner in overtime against Miller Place in the Suffolk small schools title game - a no-look sweep while lying almost supine.

Forward Emme Luck (16 points) is the secondary scorer, and she had the deciding goal in the Suffolk final against Southampton. Talented freshman Ana Sherwood "can shake and bake," coach Shannon Judge said.

The midfield is anchored by Erica Selyukova and Allura Leggard. Selyukova's height (5-10) and persistence make her solid defensively and in transition.

Matthers, in addition to her offensive heroics, is an excellent defender with great instincts and aggressiveness. India Hemby, Kirra McGowin and Rachael Miller also help anchor the defense, and Hemby contributes offensively as an inserter on penalty corners. (Hemby's older sister, Nina, was also a star on the Whalers' 2010 team.) Samantha Duchemin, another softball star, has done well as a first-year goalie.

Despite their small roster and "Class C" status, the Whalers this season have enjoyed impressive wins over some elite Class B teams, including Miller Place, Sayville and Rocky Point.

"It's not just the talent, but the mental toughness they have," Judge said. "Regardless of the situation - overtime, whatever - I have full confidence in them."

Back in 2010, the Whalers watched "Grownups" on the bus ride to Syracuse and "that became our states movie," Matthers said. For this trip, she said, there's a good chance they'll be watching "Grownups 2."

Gotta keep the symmetry, right?

ABOUT WHITNEY POINT

The Eagles beat defending state champion Greene, 2-1, in the regional final.

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Whitney Point (Section IV) is led by Lexi Benscoter, Taylor Clink and Taylor Ferro. The Tigers are skilled and savvy, and Benscoter is a playmaker on corners.

The teams in the other half of the Class C bracket have some history with Long Island. Cazenovia beat Pierson/Bridgehampton in the final in 2010. Barker lost to Southampton, 2-1, in the semifinals last year.

The winners will play for the state title at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

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