PANTHERS 2, CLIPPERS 1
As darkness descended on the field at Babylon High School, one wondered if the curtain was being drawn down on the Greenport/Southold field hockey team’s season at the same time.
Such is the intricacy of the Suffolk County field hockey power-rating system that even as Greenport/Southold boarded its team bus for the ride home following the Clippers’ final regular-season game on Thursday, they still didn’t know if they will be in the playoffs or not.
One thing the Clippers coach, Rebecca Lillis, did know, however, was that her team’s 2-1 loss to Babylon did not help matters.
A long bus ride. A shortened warmup. An unfamiliar field. A Babylon team determined to pick up its play on Senior Day following a 5-1 loss to Port Jefferson the day before. They all might have been factors in the Clippers’ flat play, but Lillis didn’t want to hear excuses.
The Clippers let a 1-0 lead slip through their fingers as second-half goals within 3 minutes 29 seconds of each other by Erin Going and Michelle Mangini brought Babylon (7-9, 5-9 Suffolk County Division III) the victory.
Mangini’s long-range shot flew through a crowd and found the mark for the game-winner with 13:48 left in the game.
The Clippers (5-9, 5-9) started the day in 10th place; Babylon was 12th.
The Clippers defeated Babylon by 5-3 on Sept. 30 in Greenport, but that was then.
On a day to honor Babylon’s three seniors — Susie Mejia, Hannah Walsh and Mangini — the Panthers brought some fire on a chilly late afternoon. They outshot the visitors by 20-4. Babylon’s goalie, Haley Watt, did not need to make a save for the shutout. The Panthers also earned 11 penalty corners to 5 for the Clippers.
The game, which started almost an hour late because of the Clippers’ late arrival, the result of traffic delays, saw Babylon force the attack and put the Greenport/Southold defense under heavy pressure. The Clippers could be grateful to their busy goalie, Brandi Gonzalez, for surviving the first half with the score 0-0. Gonzalez finished the game with 14 saves.
The Clippers got a break, though, when Toni Esposito slammed in a centering pass from Madison Tabor for her 10th goal of the season 6:58 into the second half.
But the Clippers got to enjoy that lead for only 5:45 before Going struck for the equalizer.
When the final horn sounded, ending the game, the Panthers happily rushed the field to celebrate with their goalie.
For the Clippers, it was time to pack up and trudge off to the team bus for a long ride home, not knowing whether they had played their last game of the year or not.