Northport field hockey goalie Kate Gilligan took a firm stance as she stared down Sachem East's Cara Trombetta, who was set for her penalty stroke.
Trombetta, Newsday's returning Long Island Player of the year, put a ball low to the left side of the cage, but Gilligan, a freshman, made a diving save with nine minutes left in regulation to preserve a scoreless tie.
Gilligan's teammates charged her as if she had made the winning save in a shootout. They were close. A shootout win was coming, but it was forward Noelle Peragine who played the hero in Northport's 1-0 win over host Sachem East (7-2) Wednesday.
Kathleen Little and Peragine scored for Northport (9-1) on its final two attempts in the shootout to clinch the win.
"I knew it was going to come down to the final seconds or overtime," Peragine said. That's because her team didn't register a shot on net and played nearly the entire game in its defensive zone.
The difference-maker was the girl in the pads. Gilligan made 11 saves in the first half, in which she faced an unusually high number of 16 penalty corners. She had 17 saves on 26 corners at the end of regulation.
"She saved the game a bunch of times," Peragine said of Gilligan. "She had the adrenaline flowing. We knew we couldn't take her out of the game at halftime because she was on fire."
Gilligan, who played on varsity last year as an eighth-grader, praised her defense for dealing with Sachem East's strategy of shooting high and looking for deflections low. "You never knew where the ball was going to go, who was going to get there first, if it would go in or if it would go wide," she said.
Northport coach Gina Walling played goalie Ryan Dowling for the shootout instead of Gilligan, a change she said was strategic. Using two goalies is the usual formula, she said, including when Northport beat Sachem East on Sept. 11.
Both losses for Sachem East this season have come against Northport.
"I couldn't ask for more from my goalies," Walling said. "I knew we could hold on defensively, I just wasn't sure how long we could . . . As a coach, you look at this win and say, 'That could have went the other way.' I've been on the other end of this so many times, and I know how it feels when you play your heart out and you don't get the win.''