Signs point to Pierson / Bridgehampton being a team of destiny

Pierson/Bridgehampton celebrate after defeating Whitney Point for the Pierson/Bridgehampton celebrate after defeating Whitney Point for the Class C state title. (Nov. 16, 2013) Photo Credit: Nick Serrata

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They probably should've lost.

Pierson/Bridgehampton was outplayed during stretches of some playoff games. Several questionable calls went against them in the field hockey state tournament, too. And in the state final alone, their opponent had six shots -- all potential winners -- miss by inches.

All those disadvantages, in five consecutive one-goal games, rarely yield a desirable result. And the Whalers know it.

But that makes it even sweeter that the state Class C championship plaque now rests in Sag Harbor for the first time.

"Coach [Shannon] Judge told us all season it's meant to be, and we'd make fun of her," senior Emme Luck said. "Maybe it was true. It's amazing to think about how many things could've gone wrong for us but didn't."

Judge said she is a believer in metaphysics, and a series of "odd concurrences" during the team's run convinced her they would prevail. For example: Before the state tournament, Judge bought the team red bracelets, but there was a white one in the pack -- unbeknownst to her, she insisted -- and Kasey Gilbride drew it.

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"They were all supposed to be red and, by chance, Kasey gets a white one," Judge said. "I told her she's the chosen one. And, of course, everyone started laughing."

The players dismissed it as mere coincidence . . . until Gilbride scored in double overtime of the final, lifting the Whalers to a 1-0 win over Cazenovia, the team they had lost to in overtime of the final three years ago. "That's hard to believe," Gilbride admitted.

The goal itself was unusual. The midfielder was triple-teamed and tripped inside the circle, but as she fell face-first, Gilbride swiped at the ball and it found the corner. "It was definitely weird," she said, "but you start believing everything does happen for a reason."

Even the parallels to the 2010 season were a bit eerie. Back then, the upstart Whalers beat Southampton in the county championship en route to the state final and Katherine Matthers, a defender, twice scored winning goals in the playoffs. The narrative this season was identical -- down to Matthers again scoring dramatic goals. It deviated only in the state final, of course.

"Skills alone" didn't win the championship, Judge said. "It took a lot of perseverance and mental toughness."

A bit of Luck, too. No, literally. She scored the tying goal that forced overtime in the state semifinal, which Pierson eventually won in a shootout. In that game, by the way, the opponent Whitney Point had five shots narrowly miss.

"A little too dramatic," Matthers said. "We would've loved to win easily, but we seemed to handle overtime well."

The Whalers certainly had practice, with four of their six playoff games going extras.

Fortune goes but so far, though. For what this squad lacked in dominance, it made up for in resilience. A stifling defense kept them in games, even during their lulls, and time after time, they scored just enough, and just in time.

"Everyone was crying on the ride from Syracuse," Luck said. "We were in disbelief that we did it; that it happened."

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That it almost didn't. Team of destiny? Maybe.

But they're fine with simply being called champions.

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