It’s one thing to miss making it to the playoffs. It’s another thing to miss the postseason by only one game. And it’s yet another thing still to miss it by one game for the second year in a row.
That’s what the Southold/Greenport girls soccer team has had to live with last year after coming so close, agonizingly close, to its first playoff berth since 2009.
“So close,” said senior winger Cindy Van Bourgondien.
Van Bourgondien can recall the empty feeling the Clippers were left with as they pondered what might have been. They had been held to a tie by The Ross School and dropped losses to Bishop McGann-Mercy and Smithtown Christian down the stretch, sealing their fate and concluding an 8-4-2 season.
“It was really hard,” center midfielder Justina Babcock said of the season-ending defeat. “It was our final chance to make it and they just showed up to play.”
Van Bourgondien remembers crying after one of those late-season losses for a friend, Jessica Carr, who was the team’s only senior. “It was a really sad moment for me,” she said.
On the up side, Southold/Greenport has made definite strides since enduring a two-win season three years ago. The Clippers, who started preseason practice on Monday at Southold High School, are hoping this is the year they extend their season into the playoffs.
“I think we’re finally ready to make it to playoffs,” Van Bourgondien said. “It’s been so long.”
Babcock and Van Bourgondien are the only remaining survivors from that 2-10 team in 2010. They are also the current team’s only seniors, aside from outside midfielder Leah LaFreniere. A taste of playoff soccer would be a nice early graduation gift.
“I’ve been on varsity this whole time and I’ve never made it to a playoff game, so to get it this senior year … that would be amazing,” said Babcock.
Southold/Greenport also has an all-league sweeper, Isabelle Simon, returning for her junior season. Megan Van Bourgondien, Cindy’s cousin who plays in central midfield, is a returning starter as well along with winger/striker Julie Van Gorden, defender Michaela Manno and stopper Rosemary Volinski.
Playing in the heart of the field, Babcock will have a considerable influence on how Southold/Greenport fares. Although she played forward as a freshman (the same position she plays for her club team, the Center Moriches Spirit), Babcock handles the role of playmaker for the Clippers.
“She got thrown into center mid,” said Katy Smith, who is in her third year as Southold/Greenport’s coach. “That’s not her normal position. She would probably be at striker every day. If I told her to go there, she’d probably be much happier there, but I asked her to play that, and no questions asked, and she’s been doing it all along and never complains.”
Babcock, who was an all-conference selection last year, likes to score goals. “Scoring is obviously the best because sometimes that one goal makes the difference,” she said.
At the same time, playing in the middle of the field, and in the center of the action, suits her just fine as well.
The Clippers know what to expect from the diminutive Babcock, a serious athlete with a game face to match.
“She’s probably one of the more competitive girls I have out of the whole group, I’d say,” Smith said of her team captain. “She still is the backbone of the team, and she’s in a perfect position for that being in the center. She leads by example to a T.”
Cindy Van Bourgondien said Babcock does a “phenomenal” job. “She works her butt off,” Van Bourgondien said. “She’s always there, throughout the field, helping everyone. I mean, that’s what a center midfielder does. You’re supposed to be the support for the entire team.”
With Babcock’s support, the Clippers hope to see the playoffs.