Whalers Were Winners

This team looked as if it would be a special one early on
How sweet it is: The Pierson Whalers hailed the school’s first state field hockey championship in 10 tries. Kasey Gilbride (11) scored the title-winning goal; Katherine Matthers, at left, got the assist. W. James Matthers

    Debbie Jayne, who took eight Pierson High School field hockey teams to state Final Four tournaments during her 30-year tenure in Sag Harbor only to wind up disappointed every time, can rest easy now given the fact that the 2013 Whalers on Sunday won the school’s first state championship by defeating Cazenovia (its nemesis in this game three years ago) 1-0 on Kasey Gilbride’s corner play goal with 32.9 seconds remaining in double overtime.

    It was fitting that Gilbride, Long Island’s top scorer, and one of the state’s finest players, scored the championship goal (with an assist by her fellow star, Katherine Matthers). “She’s a force of nature,” Shannon Judge, Pierson’s present coach, told The Southampton Press’s Cailin Riley amid the tumult and shouting.

    That tumult and shouting didn’t end, by the way, until the early morning of Monday, for the Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor Fire Departments, with sirens blaring, greeted the victors on their arrival here from Syracuse at about 11:30 p.m., and formed a parade with them that was cheered on along Main Street by many Whaler fans, a crowd that numbered former players of Jayne’s who could truly appreciate what this year’s team had done.

    “I feel so happy for the coaches, the kids, the parents, and the community,” Jayne said during a telephone conversation Monday.

    This team looked as if it would be a special one early on. Kaitlin Daniels, who went upstate five times as the Whalers’ goalie, and who now coaches the middle school team, said, “We all [she and Judge and Judge’s assistant Melissa Edwards] knew they had the skills, but they also had the drive and the will.”

    When speaking of will, a lot of credit goes to Sam Duchemin, the junior goalie, and softball pitcher, who, following the Whalers’ semifinal loss last spring, said she wanted to join the field hockey team.

    “She’d played volleyball before,” Daniels, who was to coach Duchemin in the preseason and in the days leading up to the playoffs, said. “She was the hero [in the state Class C semifinal with Whitney Point] on Saturday when it came down to one-on-ones. Each field player gets one shot, but the goalies have to defend five times, so the pressure on them is immense. Sam was a force to be reckoned with — she stepped up in a big way. And she had to do it twice!”

    The semifinal, played at Syracuse’s Cicero North High School (as was Sunday’s final), wound up in a 1-1 tie (Pierson’s goal was scored by Emme Luck), and was capped by the two aforementioned shootouts following two scoreless seven-on-seven 10-minute overtimes.

    The first of the two shootouts, in which each team’s five designees dribble in on the opposing goalie from 25 yards out facing a 10-second time limit, ended in a 2-2 tie, Pierson’s goals having been scored by Matthers and India Hemby.

    Thanks to the acrobatics of Duche­min, who made four saves, two of them as the result of sliding stops, and to goals by Gilbride, Hemby, and Ana Sherwood, Pierson won the second shootout 3-1, enabling the team to advance to its fourth state final.

    Judge told Newsday’s reporter, Stephen Haynes, in Saturday’s aftermath that though a field hockey rookie, Duchemin had, because of her pitching experience, “that innate ability to focus in pressure situations.”

    “She was very composed,” Daniels said later of Duchemin. “She made terrific saves and positioned herself perfectly, neither coming out too far or staying back too much — she wasn’t faked out.”

    Sunday’s final, she added, “looked as if it were heading in the same direction, but our seniors came through [in the final half-minute of double overtime]. Kasey got the goal — you can see it on YouTube — and Katherine got the assist. . . . We’ve been upstate 10 times and this is the first time we’ve won the championship. It’s very hard . . . the county final, the county small schools championship game, the Long Island final, the southeast regional game, the state semifinals and finals . . . you can’t have an off day.”

    Gilbride, Hemby, a defender from Bridgehampton, and Matthers made the all-state tournament team, and surely more postseason honors are to follow. The team’s other seniors are Kirra McGowin, Luck, and Emma Romeo.

    “I came out for homecoming and saw them play,” said Jayne, who has for the past seven years lived in the Phoenix area. “Absolutely I thought they had the potential to go all the way, but you never know who you’ll run into. I had thought that ’98 team of mine [whose roster included Jaime Mott, Robyn Bramoff, Lisa Chapman, Rosemary Moore, Kate Wils, Lauryn Mazzeo, and Cailin Brophy] would do it. It was the second straight year they’d been to the final and the third year they’d been up there. A bunch of them were texting me last night. They all were excited. . . . To come back winners . . . it’s been a long time!”

Katherine Matthers notched one of the Whalers’ goals in the first one-on-one shootout round Saturday. W. James Matthers
Sam Duchemin, Pierson’s junior rookie goalie, “really stepped up” in the two rounds of shootouts that capped the state semifinal with Whitney Point, and shut out Cazenovia in the Class C title game.W. James Matthers