SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS C TOURNAMENT | MARINERS 5, CLIPPERS 1
The third time wasn’t the charm for the Greenport/Southold field hockey team. Then again, the fact that the Clippers had a third time at all was gravy. Pure gravy.
After not having reached the playoffs since at least 1987, the Clippers made it to the postseason in 2011. They built on that this season by scratching into the playoffs for the second time in three years. That in itself was an achievement for a team that had won only one game in 2012.
In discussing the season during an interview that lasted less than two minutes, the Clippers’ junior sweeper, Liz Powe, used the word “amazing” no less than 10 times.
“It’s unreal that we came this far and got into the playoffs this year,” said Powe.
The strides were considerable, but No. 3 seed Greenport/Southold’s season came to an end on Monday with a sound 5-1 thrashing by No. 2 Southampton in a Suffolk County Class C Tournament outbracket game. Meggie Gallo scored a goal and assisted on three others for the Mariners (12-5), state finalists last year who will face No. 1 Pierson/Bridgehampton (10-4) in a county final Thursday night at the Dowling Sports Complex.
“We didn’t play our best game, but we played good enough for today,” said Southampton coach Jessica Zukosky, whose team hasn’t played the Whalers this year. “Our game is going to have to be our best game for Thursday. It will be a good one.”
Immediately following a 2-1 loss to Babylon in their final regular-season game last Thursday, the Clippers (5-10) did not know for sure what their status was in terms of whether they would be in the playoffs or not. It wasn’t until Friday morning when scores and standings were posted on the Section XI Web site that Clippers coach Rebecca Lillis learned that her team had a postseason to look forward to.
“They did it,” she said. “They deserved to be here. They definitely did. The game against Harborfields [a 1-0 Clippers victory] was really what put us on the map for this playoff game.”
Southampton is a young team. Without a single senior on its roster, the team has four juniors. The rest of the players are underclassmen. But they can play.
Coming off a memorable season and having lost eight players from the 2012 team to graduation, the Mariners have had to prove themselves all over again.
“These girls have had some big shoes to fill, and they’ve done a nice job,” said Zukosky.
During the regular season, Southampton twice defeated the Clippers, 3-0 and 4-1. Monday’s game at Southampton High School’s Richard M. Smith Field was even more decisive. Southampton outshot the Clippers, 16-5, and held a 9-3 advantage in penalty corners.
Both teams scored on their first shots of the game. Shelby Pierson, set up by Gallo, connected off the first penalty corner 2 minutes 37 seconds into the contest.
Madison Tabor pulled the Clippers even with her 16th goal of the season. Sarah Tuthill whacked a free hit down the left side for Tabor to latch onto. Tabor charged toward goaltender Alex Ambrose and pushed a shot to the far right corner before being tripped up.
Gallo provided the go-ahead goal on a penalty stroke with 3:11 left in the first half. She beat goaltender Brandi Gonzalez (9 saves) to her stick side.
But the goal of the game — and possibly the season — was Pierson’s second of the day, 1:19 into the second half. Southampton dissected the Clippers’ defense with a succession of four precise passes, a nifty display of stickwork.
That pretty much sealed the result. Goals by Miranda Maloney (assisted by Leila Thomas) and Shelby Fullam (assisted by Gallo) were the final pieces of ornamentation.
The loss aside, the Clippers had a good deal to feel good about. Their one-win season of a year ago now seems like ancient history. The scoring talents of Toni Esposito (10 goals) and Tabor, who are both freshmen, along with Gonzalez’s goaltending made a big difference.
“It’s like we broke through that wall, that invisible wall in terms of not scoring,” said Powe.
The Clippers will lose five seniors: Mary Creedon, Kelly Dacimo, Victoria Hilton, Gina Seas and Gonzalez. But what they gained from this season’s experience should help them next year.
“Just the fact that we got into the playoffs is amazing and, you know, we can always learn from what happens in each game,” Clippers right fullback Maria Soriano said. “We’re going to take that and take it to the next season.”