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Field Hockey: Goalie rediscovers love for position

During the preseason, there was a question as to who would be the goalkeeper for the Greenport/Southold field hockey team. Ella Mazzaferro was the team’s goalie last year — the first time she had ever played the position — but she was toying with the idea of returning as a field player.

She recalled: “I was like, ‘I need to be on the field. I want to be where the action’s at, like I really just want to be running up and down the field.”

For a brief spell, that thought was appealing to the Greenport High School sophomore. And then it hit her …

She said: “One day I said to myself, ‘I love [goalkeeping]. I really do. Why would I ever not want to do it?’ ”

Recalling that preseason period of uncertainty, Greenport coach Kaitlin Daniels initially acceded to Mazzaferro’s wish. Daniels told her she would put another player in goal.

“As soon as she saw somebody else in her spot, she knew that she had to go back in goal, and she found a new passion and love for the position that she had been questioning before, which is really important,” Daniels said. “Especially for goalies, it’s very important that they want to be there because of the amount of mental pressure that is put on them.”

Mazzaferro not only accepts the pressure, she embraces it. That’s a good thing, too, because she has been under a good deal of pressure and has faced an awful lot of shots this season.

“Ella has just been a really solid force for us this year, especially with such a young team,” said Daniels, a former goalie herself for Pierson/Bridgehampton and SUNY/Oswego. “We’re really still learning the game in a lot of ways. She’s had a lot of pressure put on her and she’s really risen to the occasion, making up to 30 saves a game, which is really almost unheard of … Even as a sophomore, she’s had to carry the team on her back in a lot of ways.”

Mazzaferro was a standout Friday as Greenport made an unsuccessful bid for its first win of the season. Despite some critical stops by the netminder, the Porters lost, 2-1, to Hampton Bays when Tara Brochu knocked in a sudden-victory goal 7 minutes and 31 seconds into overtime. The goal came amid a flurry of activity in front of the goal following back-to-back saves by Mazzaferro.

“It’s definitely intense and you just want to fight till the last minute because whoever scores, it is over,” Greenport offensive midfielder Brittany Walker said. “You don’t get another chance.”

This season hasn’t been kind to either Hampton Bays (3-8, 3-7 Suffolk County Division II) or last-place Greenport (0-10, 0-10).

It was Greenport’s second home game at Southold High School’s new artificial turf field. Their first was also a 2-1 overtime loss, to Babylon.

The two regulation-time goals both came within 1:59 of each other, beginning with Kailyn Havens’ goal off an assist from Brochu at 4:34. Then, Hayley Skrezec equalized off a rebound of a save by Abby Hoffmann (six saves).

“We’re definitely disappointed how we lost, as anyone would be, but we really did try our hardest,” Walker said. “I think we have played a lot better, especially since the last time we [played] them.”

That was a 4-2 loss earlier this season.

When Friday’s game went to seven-on-seven OT, Emma Quarty, Magda Rodriguez, Ava Torres, Jules Atkins, Andrea Ochoa and Walker were sent out to play in front of Mazzaferro. Mazzaferro (11 saves) turned in some of her best work in the later stages of the game. “I actually play best under pressure,” she said.

Walker said: “Ella has been doing great and we’re so happy to have her and so thankful. She’s been working really hard, doing everything we can really ask for.”

With the shortage of experience on the team, the writing was on the wall that this would be a tough season for Greenport. It’s hard to score a goal in field hockey, and if you don’t score enough of them, it’s hard to win. The Porters have been outscored, 44-4, and shut out seven times.

“We knew going into this season with such a young team that our record was not going to dictate how we felt about each game and the season overall,” Daniels said. “So, we try to focus on the growth from game to game rather than the score.”

Mazzaferro, meanwhile, is focusing on her job, and that is to keep balls out of the goal. In her two years on the team, she has played every game except one (illness) in goal.

It seems she wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Photo caption: Greenport/Southold goalkeeper Ella Mazzaferro with teammates Emma Quarty (13) and Emelyn Azurda (14) before Friday’s game. (Credit: Bob Liepa)