The shots were coming fast and furious. Chelsea Bellini was doing everything she could to try to score.
The Smithtown Christian senior forward took shots that were saved, shots that were blocked, shots that missed the mark. As her shot total went up — six, seven, eight … — the frustration mounted.
Bellini watched as younger teammates Anna Casmass, Christiana Gambino and Christy Clinton found the back of the net, but through the first half it was, as that famous “Seinfeld” character might have said, “No goals for you!”
Well, Bellini, who was probably the most skilled player on the field, finally got the goal she richly deserved. With the season-opening soccer win safely in hand for the Crusaders, Bellini took a pass from Shannon Casey and hooked a well-placed left-footed shot into the low right side that left Southold/Greenport goalkeeper Shaniece Strickland with no chance. Bellini, who had fallen to the ground in the process of getting the shot off, must have thought, “Finally!” as she sat on the grass and watched the ball roll into the netting in the 52nd minute. It was the fourth goal in a 6-0 thumping of the Clippers in a Suffolk County League VIII game at Southold High School.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Bellini said. “I try so hard to get it in the back of the net, but after a while I knew if I kept trying it would go in eventually.”
Goal scoring isn’t unfamiliar to Bellini, either. She was one of Long Island’s leading scorers last year, helping Smithtown Christian to a 15-1 record. The Crusaders’ only loss came to Chazy in the New York State Class D final. Bellini was named to the all-state first team and selected as the most valuable player of the state championship game. It was the fifth time that Smithtown Christian had reached the state final, and the fourth time since 1999, when Steven Chandler took over as the team’s coach.
The Crusaders lost five good players from last year’s team, but do have eight back, including Bellini.
“Bellini, she’s the ace,” Chandler said. “She’s great. Every year that she’s been on this team she’s produced. She’s getting stronger and stronger.”
A nifty, light-footed dribbler, Bellini has the ability to maintain possession of the ball, buying time for teammates to get open for a pass. She can also fire a shot off quickly.
Bellini had no shortage of shots on Tuesday, that’s for sure. She took 15 of them. The goal came on shot No. 14.
Later, Bellini left the game for a short while with a bloodied right knee, the result of a cleat that caught her while she was being sandwiched between two players.
It was all in a day’s play.
Gambino, a sophomore midfielder, scored twice, and Clinton, a freshman midfielder, had a goal and an assist. Smithtown Christian dominated the match, outshooting the Clippers (0-2, 0-1) by 30-2.
The Clippers, who are in a rebuilding mode, haven’t scored their first goal this season. They dropped their season opener, 5-0, to the Mattituck Tuckers last Thursday.
Not only do the Clippers have a young team, but they have already been hit by a series of injuries. Perhaps the two most serious are to Juliane Van Gorden (torn meniscus and sprained medial collateral ligament) and Megan Melly (sprained MCL). Melly is out for the season.
“That makes the situation really tough,” Southold/Greenport’s new coach, Katy Smith, said. “We have some knee problems, we have some ankle problems, so it’s been a rough start.”
Megan Van Bourgondien, a freshman center midfielder, said the Clippers need teamwork more than anything else.
“It’s tougher than I thought, more frustrating,” she said, “but we’re getting there.”
The Clippers will need patience and perseverance.
“I say to them, I don’t care if we win or lose, as long as they’ve gone out there and they feel as if they left everything on the field and they did the best that they could,” Smith said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Patience and perseverance came in handy for Bellini on Tuesday. But even after watching one shot after another come close, only to miss the mark, Chandler said he knew Bellini would get her goal.
“She’s a hard worker out there,” he said. “She makes things happen.”