CLIPPERS 2, ROYALS 1 (OT)
Four seconds. Four measly ticks of the clock.
That is how close Port Jefferson and Greenport/Southold came to experiencing the new shootout system that has been introduced this year to settle New York State high school field hockey games that are tied through overtime.
Sarah Tuthill, however, made that unnecessary. The junior left inner’s game-winning goal with four seconds left in sudden-victory overtime brought Greenport/Southold a dramatic 2-1 triumph in the season-opening Suffolk County Division III game for both teams on Monday. Kelly Dacimo assisted.
Talk about drama. Tuthill, the team’s longest-serving player who is in her fourth varsity season, said she had never scored a bigger goal in her life.
“That was amazing,” Tuthill said. “I think the first thing I said was, ‘Thank God.’ ”
Tuthill dodged a throng of Port Jefferson players before sending her shot toward the far right corner. “I was just hoping it would go in,” she said.
The ball was right on target, skipping in and banging off the backboard with a thud, the happiest sound in field hockey (at least for the scoring team).
“I jumped,” Greenport/Southold right inner Madison Tabor said. “I was so happy — so happy.”
If winning in sudden-victory overtime is the best way to win, losing in such a manner may be the worst way to lose. After the game, the reactions of the two teams couldn’t have been much more different. While the jubilant Clippers celebrated, the dejected Port Jefferson players trudged off to their team bus in dead silence.
“It’s the way I want to start the season,” Greenport/Southold coach Rebecca Lillis said. “I’m proud of them. Like I said before, they’re dedicated, and all the pieces came together today. It was two hard weeks of preseason prep work for this moment, and it’s worth it.”
The result was the Clippers’ second win in three games, dating back to last season when they defeated Port Jefferson on the same field. It was the first interscholastic sporting event for the fall season at Greenport High School, not to mention opening day. That in itself brought added excitement for the Clippers.
“The girls were pretty pumped,” Lillis said. “I told them it was like ESPN ‘GameDay’.”
And they played like they were in front of a national audience, too.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of the possession, Greenport/Southold fell behind, 1-0, when Port Jefferson scored on its first shot, a goal off a counterattack by Teresa Gomes 19 minutes 4 seconds into the game. Following a penalty corner by Greenport/Southold, Gomes collected the ball well inside her team’s half of the field, carried it forward and slammed a shot past goalie Brandi Gonzalez.
The Clippers’ hearts must have sank.
“It was a little discouraging … but we had to keep going,” Tabor said. “We couldn’t give up then because we could still win. The game wasn’t over.”
The Clippers suddenly found themselves in the odd position of enjoying advantages in every major statistical category except the most important one: goals.
Tabor took care of that, though. The freshman, assisted by Tuthill, knocked an equalizer past sprawling goalie Tammy Serabian (9 saves) with 14:13 left in the second half.
Gonzalez stopped a low penalty stroke by Gomes with her pads with 11:52 to go, keeping the score even. Greenport/Southold also killed off two delay of game penalties in the second half that left the Clippers at a player disadvantage for two minutes each.
And so the game went to overtime, when the field opened up as each side was limited to seven players instead of 11.
Gonzalez came up big during overtime, knocking aside a shot by Shannon Fee for one of her 6 saves.
Then, in the dying moments, Tuthill and the Clippers got their reward for perseverance. For the Clippers, the first game of the season left them with a lot to feel good about.
“It’s awesome,” Tabor said. “It feels great because we’re undefeated now.”