Field Hockey: Even in defeat, Greenport’s future looks bright

TORNADOES 3, Clippers 0

The Greenport/Southold field hockey team arrived four minutes after the scheduled start for its Thursday afternoon match at Harborfields Thursday due to traffic, but that wasn’t necessarily the end of the world.

The Clippers dropped a 3-0 decision to the Tornadoes, but that wasn’t necessarily the end of the world.

And the North Fork team lost for the third consecutive time after starting the season with two victories, but that wasn’t necessarily the end of the world, either.

Yes, the defeat hurt, but Greenport has a new spirit and outlook this season. The Clippers finished 2012 with one win. They already have doubled that total with 2-3 record in Division III.

“It certainly helped with the momentum and the spirit that we have,” said goalie Brandi Gonzalez, who was outstanding with 20 saves against Harborfields.

“It’s important. It definitely boosts our spirits,” coach Rebecca Lillis said. “We won our opening game against Port Jefferson in overtime. It sets their mindset for the season, knowing that we are capable of winning, even though we are a young team. Today’s game shows the improvements that we made. Whether we win or lose, we’re always gaining something from it.”

On Thursday, the hosts gained a win as Nicole Bifulco, Taylor Miltner and Caroline Saros led the Tornadoes (4-2, 4-2) with one goal apiece. Goalie Chandler Banks did not make a save.

Gonzalez, a senior who wore an unusual number 199 because of a uniform manufacturer’s mistake, stood out beyond what was on her back. She played an outstanding game, denying Harborfields several goals.

“I was pretty impressed our defense kept it down to 3-0, highly impressed with Brandi Gonzalez,” Lillis said. “Her skill has grown over the years. I think today was one of those games has shown, diving for the ball and having stick saves. In years past, it could have been a little bit worse. But I think Brandi was the player of the game.”

Lillis wasn’t the only person who noticed. Several times during the game, Harborfields coach Lauren Thomas shouted out to Gonzalez after denying her team a goal, “Nice save goalie.”

“Their goalie was phenomenal,” Thomas said afterward.

Greenport had put the ball into the Harborfields net with 16:24 left in the first half, but the apparent goal was disallowed because it was taken outside the 20-foot circle.

“It was very smart of my goalie to let the ball go in because she knew that no one on the other team had touched it,” Thomas said. “So by letting it go in, we get the ball back. The communication there was smart.”

Some 41 seconds later, Bifulco scored off a Chelsea Abreu feed to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

“It actually helped us a lot to be able to recover from that and get back onto our goal,” Abreu said.

Chelsea Skipper set up Miltner with 11:55 remaining in the half and Erin Malico, off a Caroline Saros pass, closed out the scoring with 8:06 to go in the match.

Abreu stood out for another reason — her ability to dribble and balance the ball on her stick, known as aerial dribbling — while running through the defense.

“It’s a cool skill to be able to use on the field,” Abreu said. “It helps me to dodge people. It’s something that we like to do to confuse the other teams because not a lot of other teams utilize that skill.”

The Clippers arrived at the field at 4:34 p.m, four minutes after the scheduled start. They had left Greenport at 2:55 p.m., but traffic had other plans in mind.

“It’s a lot of traffic,” Lillis said. “We’re far away. It’s a long ride. You’ve got a long trip here. that’s the one thing I don’t like about it. You have kind of a forced, quick warm-up on their field. That’s one thing I’m not too fond when we have to play the distance. It is what it is.”

Thomas had no problems postponing the start and asked Lillis about some advice about getting to Greenport. The Tornadoes play there Oct. 23.

It might have been a long trip back home, but Lillis was optimistic about the future.

“I’m happy with the team,” she said. “We have a lot of build on. We have a lot to work on. We still have half of our season left. I expect good things from the girls.”

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