Field Hockey Preview: Gulluscio hopes his last year ends in playoffs

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Kerri Hands (white jersey) is one of the players Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island Coach Todd Gulluscio hopes will bring scoring punch to the forward line.

The 2011 field hockey season will be Todd Gulluscio’s farewell. He hopes it will be a grand one, and if grand is too much, then the playoffs would do just fine.

Gulluscio said he will step down as coach of the Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island Clippers after this, his seventh year in charge, in order to focus on other duties. He is also the Greenport athletic director.

“With all the other responsibilities, it’s time,” he said. “We don’t want to make too much out of it. I love it and enjoyed it.”

Gulluscio takes an 18-73 (.198) career record into this season, but 41 of those losses came in his first three years. The Clippers won their first game in four years in 2007, Gulluscio’s third year at the helm, snapping a skid that covered at least 39 games.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Sarah Manfredi is one of the seniors that Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island is counting on.

But the Clippers have been more competitive in recent years, including last year when they went 6-10. They head into this season as the No. 10 seed among 12 teams in Suffolk County Division III.

Gulluscio cannot say when was the last time the Clippers made it into the playoffs. “I just know it’s been long enough for me,” he said.

The Clippers hope to end the wait this year. They have several award-winning players to work with, starting in goal with Alexis Reed, a two-time all-division player who was rated as the division’s top goaltender last year. She had an .86 save percentage and all six of the Clippers’ wins came on shutouts that she posted. She was selected as Greenport High School’s female athlete of the year by The Suffolk Times in June.

“She’s just her normal self,” Gulluscio said, “stopping everything.”

Erin Creedon, a senior, will be among the defenders playing in front of Reed. She was an all-division player, as were senior midfielders Lauren Ficurilli and Emily King.

Another senior, Megan Mundy, was a midfield regular last year.

Jackie Esposito, Brieanna Hallmann, Kerri Hands, Sarah Manfredi and Sarah Tuthill will try to bring scoring punch to the forward line. Those five are all seniors except for Tuthill, who started every game last year as an eighth-grader.

Tuthill has been moved from defense to offense. “I’m kind of expecting big things from her,” Gulluscio said. “She has shown that she can score the ball.”

Midfielder/forward Erica Bufkins, midfielder/forward Victoria Gonzalez and right wing Wendy Peterson have been brought up from the junior varsity team. Gulluscio said Peterson will start.

A couple of positions have not been settled yet, and Gulluscio said he will put a couple of more players on the roster; he just wasn’t sure early this week who they will be.

“The team looks good,” said Gulluscio, who is a Shelter Island resident, as are Hallmann and Mundy. “They’ve worked hard in practice. I would say over the years, at least in my time, it’s the best preseason that we’ve had. The majority of them are seniors, so they know what’s needed and what’s expected of them.”

Gulluscio said scoring is his main concern. “We don’t have that one high-powered scorer,” he said. “There were games last year where we went to overtime, double overtime, just because of a lack of scoring. They have the potential to do it. We just have to figure out a way to make it happen.”

A playoff berth would be a fine send-off for Gulluscio, who has all but ruled out a return for next year. He said, “I would say 99.9 percent, this is it.”

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