Field Hockey: Clippers take William Floyd to penalty strokes, lose

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island players lined up to hear a pregame message from one of the game officials.


Despite dominating possession and field position, the goal that the William Floyd field hockey team was looking for continued to evade the Colonials. If shots didn’t go wide of the mark or weren’t blocked by the maze of bodies and sticks clogging the way in front of the Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island goal, they were saved by goalkeeper Brandi Gonzalez.

It went this way through 60 minutes of regulation time, and then another 10 minutes of overtime in which, by rule, the game was reduced to a seven-on-seven contest.

Finally, William Floyd found a way to put the ball in the cage, but not until the Suffolk County Division III game had gone to penalty strokes.

Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island’s plucky defense held off William Floyd for 70 scoreless minutes on Thursday before ultimately falling in penalty strokes in Mastic Beach. Christina Zurica, a senior defender, pushed her attempt to the low right side for the tie-breaking goal in William Floyd’s 2-1 triumph in penalty strokes.

“A rush came in to me,” Zurica said. “I wanted to dance, but I had to keep my composure and just walk away. I was very excited. Very excited.”

Zurica’s goal came in the fourth round of penalty strokes. The next two shooters, Madison Tabor of Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island and Caitlyn Palladino of William Floyd, saw their shots saved. Then, Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island’s captain, Sarah Tuthill, sent her shot wide to the right, ending it. The Colonials rejoiced.

The result was good tonic for William Floyd (1-3, 1-1 in Division III), which went winless and didn’t even score a goal two years ago before registering only two wins last season.

“They really needed this as a confidence-booster, knowing that they can win games,” said William Floyd coach Paula Malguarnera.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | William Floyd’s Theresa Ardolino, left, and Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island’s Victoria Hilton crossing paths and sticks.

It was Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island (0-2, 0-2) that struck first in penalty strokes, with Wendy Peterson flipping in her shot to the left of goalkeeper Kerri Brownell for a 1-0 lead. But Theresa Ardolino evened things up for William Floyd on the next attempt.

Brownell, who did not need to make a save during regulation time or overtime, stopped two shots during penalty strokes, as did her counterpart, Gonzalez. Gonzalez sticked aside the first penalty stroke by Jaye Kudreyko, and later made an almost casual kick save on Palladino’s attempt in the fifth round.

The Clippers didn’t pick up their first win for their new coach, Rebecca Lillis, but just reaching penalty strokes might have felt like a victory of sorts. William Floyd put the visiting defense under intense pressure. Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island pushed the ball across the midfield line only a handful of times, and earned only one short corner to 18 for the Colonials.

“I was really nervous, but I knew my defense had my back, so it was all good,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, who recorded six saves through regulation time and overtime, made one sparkling stop, but she also had some help from her friends. The defense was anchored by fullbacks Mairi Creedon and Daniele Freeman, with Tuthill playing defensively as a center midfielder.

The Clippers had only two substitutes available, which meant there was little rest for the weary.

“Seventy minutes, limited subs, a very young team,” Lillis said. “I’m very proud of them all.” She added: “They worked really hard today. They hung in there.”

One of William Floyd’s best scoring chances came early in the game when Courtney Murphy drove the ball dangerously across the face of the goalmouth without it being met by a William Floyd stick.

As time ticked off in the goalless game, the tension mounted.

“It gets frustrating,” said Zurica, one of William Floyd’s 12 seniors. “You just got to keep your head up, get a goal in. If we just had better passes, we wouldn’t need to have gone into [penalty strokes], but it’s fine with me.”

Gonzalez has some big shoes to fill, taking over the position that Alexis Reed played before moving on to play goal for Wilkes University (Penn.). But Gonzalez, who filled in for a couple of games last year while Reed was injured, seems at ease with the position and the situation. “I feel no pressure to follow after her,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just going to do my best.”

Building up from the defense first is Lillis’ plan. “We’re starting from scratch, and this is what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re going to build around Brandi. We have a very good goalkeeper.”

The Clippers are still awaiting their first goal of the season. They were shut out by Pierson/Bridgehampton, 6-0, in their season-opening game earlier in the week.

“We couldn’t get that final piece in, but we’re going to work on it,” Lillis said. “We have to connect our defense to our front line. Our front line is there, ready to score.”

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