Field Hockey: Clippers fall in Gulluscio’s playoff farewell

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold/Mattituck goaltender Alexis Reed stopped this shot, with Harborfields' Isabelle Wechsler (6) and Kaitlin Cassar (4) lurking in the vicinity.


Todd Gulluscio had said before the season that this would be his final run as the Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island high school field hockey coach. Having said that, he hoped that the season would go on a little longer, but he surely couldn’t have complained about how long it lasted.

The record will show that Gulluscio’s seventh and final year as the Clippers’ coach was his best. Not only that, but it was the most successful season the team has enjoyed since at least 1987.

Greenport ended a long playoff drought this year. The best research Gulluscio could come up with showed that the Clippers had not reached the playoffs since at least 1987, if not earlier. They ended that dry spell this year, but then their season ended on Tuesday. Kasey Stolba scored a goal from a penalty stroke and assisted on another goal for second-seeded Harborfields, which handed No. 7 Greenport a 3-1 defeat in a Suffolk County Class B Tournament outbracket game.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Todd Gulluscio spoke to his players following his final game as Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island's coach.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad way for Gulluscio to go out.

“They gave me a gift, I’ll tell you that right now,” he said of his players. “I know they worked hard for me, and I’ll never question that as long as I live.”

The Clippers surely worked hard at Harborfields High School. The Tornadoes saw to that.

It was a memorable win for Harborfields, which will play at home against Rocky Point or Southampton in a county semifinal on Friday. Harborfields coach Lauren Desiderio said she wasn’t sure, but it might have been the first playoff win in team history. “It’s a big step,” she said.

And they took that big step with a lot of running. The Tornadoes (10-7) run like deer, and they put a lot of pressure on the Clippers (10-7) and their standout goaltender, Alexis Reed.

“We do do a lot of physical fitness to get them into shape, and we have a great bench that can come in and help out when they’re out of breath,” Desiderio said. “But, yes, they ran for 60 minutes today.”

It was Stolba’s well-taken penalty stroke 8 minutes 48 seconds into the second half that gave Harborfields a 2-1 lead.

Later, the Tornadoes exerted great pressure on the Greenport goal and it paid off. With Reed down on the ground, Harborfields kept plugging away until Isabelle Wechsler was able to knock the ball over the goal line for a 3-1 lead with 14:35 remaining. Gianna Santomauro assisted.

Reed, a senior who is one of the top goalies in the county, played well, making nine saves in her final game for the Clippers. She was sharp, especially early on when she made a brilliant leg save on a shot that Samantha Gray snapped off a pass from Santomauro. Reed even did well to block a ball that deflected off one of her defenders, Megan Mundy.

“She made some awesome saves,” Desiderio said. “She really kept her team in the game. It was a good challenge for us. It made our team work really hard.”

But Harborfields eventually broke the ice with 6:01 left in the first half. Wechsler took a penalty corner, pushing the ball to Stolba. The senior midfielder then fired a shot that Katie DeNicola redirected into the goal.

Harborfields continued to pepper shots at the Greenport goal, but Reed was able to deny the Tornadoes before Sarah Tuthill produced an equalizer for the Clippers at 4:00 of the second half. Kerri Hands slid the ball across the goalmouth to Tuthill, who slammed it in.

“I thought we were doing well, and then it was just like a lapse that got us down,” Reed said. “I thought we would bounce back, but it’s O.K. It’s a tough loss. … Somebody had to lose the game. It just stinks that it was us.”

Harborfields outshot the visitors, 16-6, and earned 15 penalty corners to Greenport’s two.

The Tornadoes were so focused on preparing for a penalty corner that they were awarded in the game’s dying moments that their coach had to tell them the contest was over. Then they jumped for joy and celebrated.

“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” Stolba said. “I’m so proud of every single one of my teammates.”

The Clippers experienced similar joy last week when Gulluscio called his players out of their classes and used a SMART Board to show them that they had bumped Comsewogue out of sixth place in the Division III final regular-season standings. The players knew what that meant: They were in the playoffs.

“All of us were just screaming,” Reed said. “The entire school probably heard our screams and some of us were crying.”

After the game, fans applauded the Greenport players as they walked off the field for the last time. Shortly after that, Gulluscio walked off the field for the last time.

Gulluscio, who will remain in his post as the Greenport athletic director, finished with a 28-80 (.259) career record. But 41 of those losses came in his first three years, and the Clippers have shown steady improvement in recent years.

“It’s been a heck of a seven years,” Gulluscio said, “and I’m very proud of where the program has gone.”

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