After getting hit on the head by a field hockey ball during a game against Shoreham-Wading River earlier this season, Toni Esposito may have been the last one on the scene to appreciate the severity of the injury she had suffered.
The Greenport/Southold player figured she was fine and rose up, only to be urged by her coach, Rebecca Lillis, to get back on the ground. What Lillis and others saw was blood, and plenty of it. When Esposito saw it, she reacted to the gruesome sight.
“I screamed,” she said.
The cut on Esposito’s forehead required 18 stitches.
“It was really scary,” one of her teammates, Jules Atkins, said. “I saw so much blood that I wanted to faint.”
Then, Oct. 9, in a game against Pierson/Bridgehampton, Esposito went down on the field again. This time she had stepped on a stick during play and injured her right ankle. “It just popped,” she said of the ankle.
As Esposito was being carried off the field, she must have been thinking, why me?
The Clippers are fortunate in a sense that the two injuries forced Esposito to miss only two games and not more.
After sitting out a week and icing the ankle at night, Esposito returned to practice on Friday. She had received clearance from a doctor earlier in the afternoon before heading straight to the practice field.
Asked how the ankle felt, Esposito said, “It’s sore, but it’s getting there.”
Lillis was happy to see her back. The junior center midfielder is a vital piece of the Clippers’ lineup whose absence was felt.
“She was definitely missed in both of those games, and to watch the team play without her, it’s almost like a different team,” said Lillis.
Without Esposito, an aggressive player who covers a lot of ground, on the field, Lillis has found that the Clippers are more defensive.
“It’s amazing to watch her play,” Lillis said. “She’s just such a great field hockey player.”
In Esposito’s most recent time away, the Clippers experimented by dropping forwards Ale Cardi and Madison Hilton back to midfield, but they tend to gravitate to the front, said Lillis. However, the Clippers found someone who seemed to fit the bill, Atkins.
“She is a runner, Jules,” Lillis said of the freshman who played for the junior high school team last year. “She is speedy. She’s fast. I mean, she’s just up and down the field.”
Without Esposito, Atkins scored one of the shootout goals in a 3-2 shootout win over Babylon last Wednesday. Madison Tabor scored the winning goal in the shootout. During regular play, Tabor and Hilton (assisted by Tabor) scored the Clippers’ goals during regular play.
It was only the Clippers’ second win of the season. Their only other win also came at Babylon’s expense.
In their most recent games on Saturday and Monday, the Clippers were shutout, 3-0 by Comsewogue, and 2-0 by Harborfields.
With a small roster and virtually no depth, the Clippers (2-11 overall and in Suffolk County Division IV) sit 12th among the 13 teams in the division. It hasn’t been an easy season for them.
“It’s a tough season sometimes, but you have to keep going,” Esposito said. “Sometimes everything’s against you, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You just got to keep your head.”
Esposito, who made her varsity debut five years ago as a seventh grader, is happy to be back.
“It’s hard not being on the field,” said the player, who bears a scar on her forehead, a reminder of the Shoreham game. “Now I have to take advantage of the fact that I’m on the field for the amount of time that I am.”
The Clippers may want to consider one thing to keep her safe and sound: Bubble Wrap.