Southampton's Runno Russo defends against Pierson/Bridgehampton's Katherine Matthers in the...

Southampton's Runno Russo defends against Pierson/Bridgehampton's Katherine Matthers in the Suffolk Class C field hockey final. (Nov. 12, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Katherine Matthers is a star.

She recently ran a personal-best 6 minute, 45-second mile and, as a center-midfielder and defender, she anchors the Pierson/Bridgehampton field hockey team on both ends of the field and has scored five goals.

Her game sense, passing ability and leadership "is incredible," coach Shannon Judge said. And her team is again a title contender.

November 2010: Matthers, then a freshman, was moved from defense to the midfield during the Whalers' playoff run. She scores two goals -- her first ever -- in a L.I. championship game upset, leading Pierson/BH to the state tournament. There, Matthers flashes the magic once more, scoring the winner in a state semifinal.

A star is born!

December 2010: Matthers, a point guard, hustles up the court on a fast break and makes a jump-pass, but lands awkwardly and her left leg buckles.

"I didn't know what happened," said Matthers, now a senior at Pierson. "I just heard two pops in my knee and the rush of pain came afterwards."

recommendedAll-Long Island field hockey history

She had suffered a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament. What followed was the typical six-month recovery and a rigorous rehabilitation process that included intensive physical therapy, strength training, and even re-learning how to run and jump.

November 2011: Showing few ill-effects of the surgery, Matthers helps lead her field hockey team to the Suffolk Class C final. And her recovery has gone so well, she excels again at basketball and is named captain as a sophomore.

December 2011: While dribbling, Matthers pivots but her legs get entangled with an opponent's and the left knee twists as she falls.

"It wasn't the pain that made me cry," she said. "It's because I knew the same thing had just happened again."

Another torn ACL. Except the second surgery brought nine months of recuperation. The doctor warned that her speed likely would diminish, Matthers said, and the muscles in her left leg wouldn't be as large or defined as the right.

"It was really upsetting," Matthers said, "but after a few weeks I realized all I could do was channel my frustration into recovery and be ready for fall."

By then she had set her mind on playing college field hockey and believed that showcasing her skills as a junior was paramount. So, against the advice of her physician, and despite the concerns of her parents and coach Shannon Judge, Matthers started the 2012 season. "Katherine's determination can never be questioned," Judge said. "Her physical therapist said she's never met anyone like her. She's a rockstar patient."

Matthers was shifted to sweeper to limit her running that year, but by season's end, she was playing center-defense and again helped guide the Whalers to the county final. She gave up basketball and spent last winter playing club field hockey.

"I don't feel bad for myself," said Matthers, who has received several college offers. "I probably wouldn't be the person I am now if I didn't have to fight to get back to what I love. I don't regret it all."

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