Clarke won. And if you guessed it was a one-goal game that came down to the waning minutes… it simply means you’ve been paying attention. They pulled out another one.
The Rams edged fifth-seeded North Shore, 1-0, Monday in a Nassau Class B quarterfinal. Kristen Keller scored the winner with 1:30 remaining as No. 4 Clarke earned its first trip to the semifinals since 2001.
Clarke, this season, played in more than its share of close games (as previously mentioned) and their two prior matchups with the Vikings this season resulted in a scoreless tie and then a 2-1 overtime win on Oct. 10. So there was a good chance this one, too, would be get the palm sweat going.
The ball came up from midfield and was worked right, over to Demi Shanahan on the wing, and she made a long pass left, across the goal, to Keller for the goal.
“The crowd went wild,” Rams coach Leslie Murray said. “The game was so competitive and the crowd had been reacting to everything… After we scored I called a timeout to settle [the players] down because they were so excited. We only had 1:30 left so I wanted to make sure they were focused and we could hold it down.”
But what’s a Clarke game without extra dramatics? North Shore (9-5-1) drew a penalty corner in the final 30 seconds, but the Rams were able to clear it and hang on for the win.
“I’m getting used to it,” Murray said of the late-game tension. “It was very exciting, but it was a relief at the end. It could've gone either way. North Shore was putting pressure on my goalie. We did the same. Both teams hit the post during the game. It was just a matter of who was going to get the break. Fortunately for us, we did.”
For her efforts, Keller was presented the Golden Stick. It’s a Clarke tradition, wherein the player of the game is given a gold-painted field hockey stick. Amanda Gargiulo made 10 saves in the shutout.
The Rams (10-3-3) will face top-seeded Garden City at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
“It's been so exciting because my team has come together,” Murray said. “They've never had negative thoughts at all. It's just been such an easy team to coach. They were just focused and really determined to get here. They've been positive and always thinking ahead.”
Of course, Clarke’s next matchup will likely be its most difficult. Garden City (13-0-1) is seeking its seventh consecutive Class B county championship, and 19th straight overall. They’ll also have home field advantage, which means the Rams will have to adjust to turf.
The teams last squared off on Oct. 17 and the Trojans won, 2-1. A close game, naturally.
“We're excited because we played them close the first time,” Murray said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity. The odds are definitely in their favor, but we have the mindset where we've scored on them once and we can do it again. You know the saying, on any given day… So we're going in hopeful.”