Kaitlin Daniels has seen disturbing signs that the number of field hockey players on Long Island has been declining in recent years. However, the Greenport/Southold high school coach found encouragement this past spring when she saw healthy turnouts for pickup games. That prompted her to approach Greenport athletic director Chris Golden and suggest the time was right for the school to bring a junior varsity team back to the fall lineup.
And so it is. For the first time in about five years, Greenport will field a JV team, coached by Mary Kathryn Baker. That’s a positive for the immediate future.
“It is a sport that’s struggling, so the fact that we’re adding instead of taking away is good news for us,” said Daniels.
More good news for the Porters: Since they didn’t have a JV team last year, they carried a 22-player varsity roster, giving many young players a chance to dip their toes into the varsity waters.
Greenport graduated only four players, two of whom were starters, forward Brittany Walker and midfielder Jules Atkins. With nine returning starters, including three-year starting goalkeeper Ella Mazzaferro, the Porters look like a sure bet to improve on their 1-13 record from last year.
“We are returning girls that are comfortable with the sport, have played on the varsity level,” said Daniels, whose team is seeded 14th out of 14 Suffolk County Division II teams.
Among them is Mazzaferro, an All-League junior who was the team MVP. She worked on her game in the offseason by playing for a travel team, and Daniels has noticed an improvement.
“Not only is she athletic, but she’s also very passionate about the game, and she’s competitive and she’s intelligent,” Daniels said. “She understands the game. She knows how it needs to be played … There’s a whole new level of confidence to her and also a calmness in that she’s very assured of her position and knows what to do and is confident in it.”
Mazzaferro was recently named a team captain along with junior defenders Ava Torres and Magda Rodriguez and senior midfielders Emma Quarty and Irene Papamichael.
Torres received the team’s Unsung Hero Award. “Ava has been a standout for many of the other coaches and myself,” Daniels said. “She brings passion and tenacity to every game every day.”
More veteran know-how is provided by defender Andrea Mena-Ochoa, midfielder Hannah Taggart (who played two games before suffering a season-ending concussion in 2018) and forwards Marley Medina, Sophia Wachtel, Melissa Grzegorczyk, Angela Kollen, Gabriella Zaffino and Hayley Skrezec. Ayania Smith, a freshman who played for the junior high school team last year, is Mazzaferro’s backup in goal.
“We’re still a very young team,” Daniels said. “We are predominantly sophomores and juniors, but all the returning players are coming with some game experience.”
Photo caption: Greenport/Southold goalkeeper and team MVP Ella Mazzaferro takes a break during a timeout in game against Hampton Bays last year at Southold High School. (Credit: Bob Liepa)