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Clarke tops New Hyde Park in field hockey nail-biter

Clarke midfielder Allie Stokum (no. 14) handles the

Clarke midfielder Allie Stokum (no. 14) handles the ball in the offensive zone against New Hyde Park. (Sept. 28, 2013) Credit: Steven Ryan

Being 6-0, for the Clarke field hockey team, is kind of a big deal. Coming off a seven-win season, being one of only two Nassau teams still undefeated is no small feat.

In fact... "It's huge!" senior Caileigh Berry said. "We haven't been this good in a while, so it feels like we're doing something right."

Yeah, all the little things.

Goals by Berry and Lauren Reilly ignited Clarke and a medley of contributions from others sealed the Rams' 2-1 win over New Hyde Park on Saturday in Conference I.

"For our team, every tiny thing has to be there for us," Clarke coach Leslie Murray said of her scrappy squad. The game ended on Berry's break-up of a New Hyde Park penalty corner pass at the whistle. "We have to make plays like that," Murray said, "and we can't afford a let-up."

There wasn't a letdown in store, either. And the Rams bought themselves another nail-biting victory - this one against a team they had gone to overtime with earlier this month.

Berry scored only 1:58 into the game, and seizing early momentum was big. But a little detail: After taking the squib pass from Bailey McNamara on the left post, Berry opted against the standard low liner and, instead, scooped a lift shot into the upper left corner, just beyond the goalie's reach.

Reilly's goal, two seconds before halftime, was the difference. That, obviously, was big. Here's the skinny: With time dwindling, Lauren Keller took the penalty corner feed and fired, but the ball was headed toward the goalie's foot. Reilly had the wherewithal to lunge left and tap the ball, redirecting it just inside the right post.

"That goal took some pressure off us," Reilly said. "[New Hyde Park] is good and we know how tough our last game with them was, so getting some insurance was big."

Substantial, since Ariana Bruschi scored for the Gladiators - a liner into the right corner from the arc - with 14:47 remaining.

New Hyde Park rallied in the final minutes but Angelica Gargiulo twice nullified their scoring chances. The backer deflected an outlet pass, leading to a turnover, with seven minutes left. And when the Gladiators threatened again on a penalty corner with 5:20 left, Gargiulo stole the ball with a block tackle on the perimeter. Both plays were to the aid of the goalie, her twin sister, Amanda Gargiulo (two saves).

Little things that aren't reflected in a box score but... "Plays like that," Berry said, "are so important to winning."

As was Natalie Morano and Jessica Gibaldi's transition play, and Lexi Zaino's on-the-ball defense, and Brianna Ventola's hustle plays down the stretch, despite a sore back.

Leah Bodh made four save for the Gladiators (2-4).

"We've been in these tough situations before and I trust my girls to play hard until the end," Murray said, referring to Clarke's penchant for eking out one-goal games the last three years. "This is a good start, but we won't rest on it."

Not even a little.

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