Rebecca Lillis said it has been a privilege to watch three of her most prominent field hockey players — Madison Tabor, Toni Esposito and Katie Tuthill — play ever since they were seventh graders. But the best may be yet to come.
All three of those juniors enter their fifth year as varsity starters for Greenport/Southold, and will be instrumental in how the Clippers fare this season.
Tabor, a forward, is a genuine talent. This summer she was selected to play in the USA Futures Field Hockey National Tournament. She played eight games in the four-day tournament in Pennsylvania, scoring one goal and picking up four assists.
For the Clippers last season, Tabor, was an all-conference player, tallying five goals and seven assists (she had 13 goals and three assists the year before). She was selected by The Suffolk Times as its Greenport female athlete of the year for 2014-15.
“She’s fast and she’s hungry for goals,” said Lillis.
Esposito, like Tabor, is a year-round field hockey player. The all-division midfielder was especially valued for her defense and shot blocking.
“She’s amazing,” said Lillis.
Not surprisingly, Tabor and Esposito began preseason practices looking as if they had never stopped playing, said their coach.
Tuthill is another story. About midway through last season, the goalie suffered a concussion when she was kicked in the head in a game against Babylon. She sat out the remainder of the season.
“She’s a phenomenal goalie,” Lillis said. “She just hasn’t played for basically over a year. She’s trying to get back into the swing of things.”
The Clippers, who went 5-9 last year, are seeded 12th in Suffolk County Division III. It’s a young team with mostly sophomores and freshmen. The 15-player roster has only one senior and three juniors.
For all their youth, however, the Clippers have game experience. Forwards Madison Hilton, Ale Cardi and Ashley Payne, as well as defenders Zoe Medina and Liz Clark, are returning starters. Another sophomore, Isabelle Torres, took over in goal after Tuthill was injured.
The team’s lone senior, Suze Bunchuck, who can play midfield or forward, has varsity experience, as does freshman forward Brittany Walker.
Four freshmen are new to the team: Andria Skrezec, Jules Atkins, Nereida Toribio and Emelyn Azurdia. Atkins is a midfielder. The positions for the other three had not been determined.
Lillis, who takes an 11-33 record into her fourth season as the team’s coach, said the loss of three defensive players has left “a hole in our defense right now that we’re trying to patch up.”
One thing is for sure: Tabor, Esposito and Tuthill are not at a loss for motivation.
Said Lillis, “They want to finish their last two years of high school the most successful way they can.”
Photo caption: Greenport/Southold forward Madison Tabor, air dribbling in a game against Hampton Bays last year, played in the USA Futures Field Hockey National Tournament this summer. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)