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Keara Wood's clutch goal leads Southampton field hockey

Southampton's Shelby Pierson and Pierson's Kirra McGowin battle

Southampton's Shelby Pierson and Pierson's Kirra McGowin battle for the ball in the first half of a game. (Oct. 11, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Off the penalty corner insert, Keeling Pilaro drove inside and the defense converged. A shot in traffic was blocked. A wild scrum for the loose ball.

She's got it. No, he's got it. Wait, she's got it.

Who's got it?

Keara Wood, field hockey's Johnny, err, Joanie-on-the-spot.

The forward recovered the ball and scored the deciding goal for Southampton in a 2-0 win over rival Pierson/Bridgehampton Thursday in Suffolk Division III.

Fitting that Wood was in the right position on that play, considering she's played all positions in the past.

"All I wanted was that first goal," she said. "It meant more to me than anything."

Understandably so, since the sophomore's first varsity goal led to Southampton's first victory over the Whalers in over five years. Lest we forget: Wood had shifted from midfielder/back to forward just days ago.

But when opportunity knocked, Wood knocked the ball into the back of the cage "as hard as I could."

She took a deflection, found an opening from close range, and lashed it into the right corner with a reverse sweep 6:56 in.

"We've struggled to score most of the season," Mariners coach Kim Hannigan said. "Keara's aggressive; she just goes. That's something you can't teach, which is why we moved her up [to forward]."

That decision proved to be, well, spot-on.

Emma Romeo (10 saves) made a diving stop but smothered the ball, setting up Emily Wesnofske's penalty stroke with 5:31 remaining that created the final margin. Alex Ambrose had six saves in the shutout for Southampton (5-5).

The Mariners' defense was steadfast, seldom allowing true scoring opportunities and clearing four penalty corners in the second half. "Myself and our other backs, Caroline [Ricca] and Leila [Thomas], had a mind-set like, 'Nothing is getting past me!' " defender Gina Curreri said.

Few balls did, and the Mariners avenged last month's 1-0 overtime loss to Pierson/Bridgehampton (6-3). The Whalers also had edged Southampton in the 2010 Suffolk Class C final.

"We finally beat them," said Wesnofske, a senior. "There was definitely a revenge factor for us . . . It was nice to get one on them early and feel confident the whole way."

Thanks, in part, to Joanie-on-the-spot.

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