From season to season, teams change. Players come and players go. It’s the cycle of high school sports.
Sometimes those changes are minimal and subtle. Other times they are more dramatic, like the transformation the Greenport/Southold field hockey team has undergone.
This is a clear-cut new era for the Porters and it really centers upon the departures of four people. Rebecca Lillis has stepped aside as coach after five years, during which the team went 18-54. On the field, Greenport lost only three players from last year’s team, but what players they were. Toni Esposito, Madison Tabor and Katie Tuthill were each six-year varsity players. Tabor was a two-time Suffolk Times Athlete of the Year. Esposito won that honor once.
All of that, and the promotion of Kaitlin Daniels from assistant to head coach, makes for a significant change.
“It’s crazy,” senior defender Liz Clark said after Tuesday morning’s practice. “It’s a different feeling.”
With Esposito, Tabor and Tuthill having moved on, opponents might be prone to underestimate Greenport, which went 5-9 last year. But the Porters bring skill and experience in the form of six seniors, and a defense that remains largely intact with Clark, Zoe Medina and Isabelle Torres. Ale Cardi, Clark, Torres and Brittany Walker are all four-year varsity players.
“We have a lot of four-year players,” Daniels said. “We have a lot of seniors this year who have years and years of playing experience on varsity. Because it is a small program it works in our advantage in that way in that kids do get four, sometimes even five, years of playing on varsity whereas if it was a larger school, that would be pretty unheard of.”
Daniels is a former goalkeeper who played for Pierson/Bridgehampton and SUNY/Oswego. She later was an assistant coach for both teams, including a state champion Pierson team. Just two days into preseason practice, she likes what she has seen.
“Coach Lillis had such an amazing impact on them, and I walked into a team of girls who had a lot of skill already, as you saw with the aerial dribbling,” she said. “They came in prepared.”
“I have nothing but great things to say right now,” she continued. “I’m seeing so much positivity, so much hard work. I’m seeing a lot of camaraderie [among] the girls. There really is a family mentality where they’re always willing to help each other step up.”
Cardi had good things to say about Daniels. “She’s great,” the senior forward said. “She has a lot of experience, so she really knows what she’s doing and I think she’s going to do great things for us.”
Will Greenport miss the high-profile trio that graduated? Certainly, but the real question is how will the Porters adjust to the new circumstances?
“We know we took a big hit to our team, but we’re just going to play the best we can, do the best we can, and that’s all we can ask for,” said Clark.
Daniels said: “In terms of losing those three players, it does have an impact on us, but we have so many great kids on our team with so much talent and really a fire to learn. Every day I’m amazed at how willing they are to learn and to put in the effort. So, while it is a loss to lose those three, I really have a lot of high hopes going into this season.”
Clark, one of the veterans assuming a leadership role, has been around long enough to know how it goes. Nothing stays the same forever, including field hockey teams.
“It’s changing,” she said. “That’s life. Life changes.”
Photo caption: Greenport/Southold senior defender Liz Clark working on aerial dribbling during Tuesday morning’s practice. (Credit: Bob Liepa)