It was about a half-dozen years ago when someone brought Steve Van Dood’s attention to a fifth-grade girl playing soccer on the playground. It was the way she was playing that was interesting.
Van Dood recalled: “She was just bowling over boys, knocking kids over, and I was like, ‘That’s the toughness that we need on our basketball team later down the road.’ ”
As it turned out, that girl, Chelsea Marlborough, has become a staple of the Mattituck High School girls basketball team that Van Dood coaches. The 5-foot-5 junior guard is in her third season with the Tuckers. She is a regular starter, having played all 23 games so far this season.
A glance at Marlborough’s statistics (3.0 points, 3.7 rebounds per game) may not be too revealing, but as Van Dood pointed out, “She does a lot of things that you don’t necessarily see in the box score.”
There is a good reason why Marlborough is in the starting five. She brings athleticism, maturity and, yes, toughness, that the Tuckers can count on. More than anything, she is a key piece of Mattituck’s trademark press defense.
“I’m a big defensive person, so I like to do more of stopping the girls or getting back and putting in the extra work,” she said. “Scoring is fun, it’s great, but I really have fun when I get the defense in.”
Marlborough, who has verbally committed to play lacrosse for Harvard, understands that two points prevented equals two points scored in the plus/minus game. Sound defense is a valued asset.
“There is a very big value to that, all those stops and deflections and all the time that she just disrupts flow and creates mayhem out there, then she’s doing the job that we need her to do,” Van Dood said. “And after that, I tell her, it’s just icing on the cake.”
One statistic that stands out is 3.0: Marlborough’s team-leading average for personal fouls per game. Prior to Mattituck’s 48-47 victory over Carle Place in the Long Island Class B final Monday, Van Dood sounded prophetic, talking about the need for Marlborough to stay out of foul trouble. “Just keep her out of foul trouble,” he said. “That’s what we got to do. Keep her out of foul trouble and keep her on the floor and we’re going to be alright.”
Marlborough picked up three first-half fouls, though. She finished the game with no points and two rebounds.
Although Marlborough is not a designated captain (senior Corinne Reda and junior Liz Dwyer are the team captains), Van Dood recognizes her leadership ability and level-headed approach.
“She’s just another reason why we’re successful this year,” he said. “We’re a great team of players, not a team of great players.”
Looking to the future, Marlborough said: “I have to prepare myself to be what I want to be. If I come in with the right mindset, then I can accomplish whatever I want.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s Chelsea Marlborough tries to find her way past Carle Place’s Leah Burden. (Credit: Garret Meade)