Playing as a field hockey goalkeeper wasn’t on Ella Mazzaferro’s radar before this year. “I was completely against it in junior high,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m not doing this.’ ”
The recruiting process started last year during a study hall period. That was when Mazzaferro was approached by Greenport/Southold high school coach Kaitlin Daniels and asked to give the position a try. She was essentially drafted. Mazzaferro, who had played center forward for two years in junior high school, consented.
That’s how Greenport found a new goalie to succeed the graduated Katie Tuthill, a six-year varsity player.
And that’s how Mazzaferro, a freshman, has come to play every minute of every game so far in her first varsity season, wearing the No. 99 goalie shirt.
“It’s a great opportunity for her,” said Daniels, a former goalie herself for Pierson/Bridgehampton and SUNY/Oswego. “It’s a great opportunity for our team to be able to go into next year with a seasoned goalie and hopefully for the next three years, so it’s really worked out well so far.”
A goalie is not made overnight. It’s a complicated position involving technical aspects that take quite a while to master.
“I would say that she’s been doing a great job,” Daniels said. “Each game she gets better, she learns more … There are a lot of subtle nuances and each game she learns more and more, and I’ve been very impressed with her learning curve.”
One of the things Mazzaferro has learned is that goals are going to be scored on her. It’s inevitable. Opponents have scored 20 goals against her in eight games, including the pair East Hampton knocked in Monday in a 2-0 win at Greenport High School.
Senior defender Liz Clark said it’s important that her and her teammates don’t let Mazzaferro get down on herself. “I know here and there she may blame herself, but we just have to keep reminding her that it’s her first year,” Clark said. “She’s still learning and it’s part of the game.”
What drew Daniels to selecting Mazzaferro was her athleticism.
“Really, truly, your goalie should be one of the most, if not the most, athletic girls on your team,” Daniels said. “It’s a very fast-paced sport now. It has very much gone in the direction now where you need athletes and you need girls who have a very fast reaction time and are highly mobile, and she fit the bill for that.”
Mazzaferro enjoyed her first career shutout last Thursday when she made two saves in a 2-0 defeat of visiting Port Jefferson. Madison Hilton and Ale Cardi handled the goal scoring on assists by Sophia Wachtel and Brittany Walker.
On Monday, playing behind a busy defense led by Isabelle Torres, Zoe Medina and Clark, Mazzaferro made four saves as the Porters (2-6 overall and in Suffolk County Division II) faced considerable pressure in their end in the second half.
East Hampton (5-3, 5-3) won on goals by seniors Maya Shultz and Lina Bistian. Schultz scored 23 minutes, 30 seconds into the game on an assist by Bistian, who was unassisted on her score with 5:06 left to play.
The Porters were shut out for the sixth time this season. They have scored six goals.
“Our offense is struggling right now,” Clark said. “We can’t seem to find our groove, but I think it will get there.”
One of those shutouts came on Sept. 7 when East Hampton won, 3-0.
“We’ve kind of been in a slump,” said East Hampton coach Robyn Mott, a former teammate of Daniels’ at both Pierson and SUNY/Oswego. “This was probably the best we’ve played in the past two games. We moved the ball really well. But [the Porters], they lost a lot of seniors last year, but they’ve definitely gotten better. They’ve progressed.”
As has Mazzaferro.
“She’s living up to a big name,” Clark said. “She’s come a long way since the beginning of the season. At first I could tell she was a little skeptical about being [a goalie], but she’s turning into being a wonderful goalie. You can’t ask for anything more. It’s her first year. She’s still learning the ins and the outs. She’s gotten a lot better.”
Mazzaferro has found goalie to be a humbling position. She has noticed that saves aren’t appreciated as much as goals. She also sounds determined to improve.
“I’m just going to get better from here,” she said. “Since I came after such a great goalie, I really have to believe in myself … I have to stay strong because coming after Katie is super hard to do. So I’m really trying to get my mind set in the proper spot to believe that I am good, I can be like her.”
Photo caption: Greenport/Southold goalkeeper Ella Mazzaferro keeps her eye on the ball while teammate Brittany Walker tries to control it. (Credit: Bob Liepa)