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Baily McNamara, Diana Schmitt propel Clarke to semifinals

Clarke's Bailey McNamara, left, is congratulated by Jessica

Clarke's Bailey McNamara, left, is congratulated by Jessica Gibaldi after scoring a shootout goal against New Hyde Park in a Nassau Class B field hockey quarterfinal on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. Clarke won in a shootout after double overtime. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Bailey McNamara drove to her left and attempted a lift shot over the goalie. Denied! She quickly gathered the rebound, reset and ripped another. Denied! Once more, McNamara regained possession, shuffled to the right and smacked the ball in. That's the one!

"I keep going until I hear that whistle," the Clarke sophomore said of her score in the first shootout. "Keep fighting until it's over."

Except it wasn't over. Because New Hyde Park answered, forcing a second shootout round in what became an epic Nassau Class B field hockey quarterfinal on Monday.

McNamara, Take 2: In a sequence almost identical to the previous one, her first two shots were deflected, but the third time again proved the charm. And that was the one.

She had the deciding score in the second shootout round and Jessica Gibaldi added another as the fourth-seeded Rams edged New Hyde Park, 3-2, in what, essentially, was a fourth overtime. Diana Schmitt made seven of her 13 saves in the extra periods as Clarke outscored the Gladiators 2-0 in the second shootout.

"That was almost symbolic of how the whole game went," Gibaldi said of McNamara's putbacks. "We take the lead, they tie it. We get it back and we think we've got it, but we don't. And in the end, we pulled it out."

The Rams advance to the semifinals for a second straight season and will visit top-seeded Garden City at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

McNamara put the Rams (11-4) on the board 1:43 before halftime, scoring off a feed from Gibaldi. Kristen Rivers tied it with 6:28 left in regulation. Gibaldi retook the lead, scoring off Julia Cavaluzzi's pass with 5:08 to go, but Brianna Patrizi answered 19 seconds later for No. 5 New Hyde Park.

Michaela Zabicki and Hannah Arkin forced several turnovers, and Leah Bodh was stellar with 16 saves for the Gladiators (8-4) as the teams went scoreless through two overtimes. After McNamara put Clarke ahead in the first shootout round, Rivers tied it at 1, forcing a second round.

Kaliann Terry, Lexi Zaino, Lauren Keller, Maddie Seims and Kirstin Cox helped lead a defense that withstood heavy pressure from Clarke in the second half and cleared two penalty corners in the final minute of the second overtime. Clarke has won four straight against New Hyde Park, each by a goal.

The shootout, introduced last season in lieu of penalty strokes, pits a field player against the goalie. The shooter starts at the 25-yard line and has 10 seconds with which to drive inside and score, but the keeper is allowed to leave the cage and pressure the ball.

Which is precisely what Schmitt did to protect the lead, after Gibaldi gave the Rams a 2-0 advantage. Schmitt leaped to swat a scoop shot and the ball deflected back to the shooter, who faked left and pulled right for what Gibaldi said "everyone thought was a sure goal." But Schmitt reacted just in time, making a spectacular diving stop and tapping the ball away with the end of her stick as the 10 seconds expired.

"That was an unbelievable play," said Rams coach Leslie Murray, whom along with teammates, raved about Schmitt's play afterward. "I wish we had that on video so we could replay it over and over."

To think, Schmitt hates diving. The first-year starter had been hesitant to make diving attempts earlier this season -- even in practice. It's something the coaches "have been nagging her about," Murray said. Could've fooled anyone in attendance on Monday.

But why the reluctance?

"Because then you have to get up," Schmitt said with a grin. "It takes the most out of you of any save, and you get scrapes. But I've always said, when I have to, I'll go for it."

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