02/18/14 8:36pm
02/18/2014 8:36 PM
Southold/Greenport's Justina Babcock, left, and Pierson/Bridgehampton's Kasey Gilbride both get a hand on the ball. (Garret Meade photo)

Southold/Greenport’s Justina Babcock, left, and Pierson/Bridgehampton’s Kasey Gilbride both get a hand on the ball during the county Class C final in Northport. (Garret Meade photo)

SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS C FINAL | WHALERS 54, CLIPPERS 49

The Southold/Greenport Clippers were almost there, and that is what made their ending so painful.

After leading for most of the way, the Clippers were just nipped at the finish line. For Pierson/Bridgehampton, it was the best way to win; for Southold/Greenport, it was the worst way to lose. (more…)

11/25/13 5:00pm
11/25/2013 5:00 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Cari Gehring, who has represented the United States in international competition, transferred to spend her senior season with Southold/Greenport.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Cari Gehring, who has represented the United States in international competition, transferred to spend her senior season with Southold/Greenport.

When Joe Read left his job as Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School’s junior varsity girls basketball coach to take over the Southold/Greenport varsity team last season, it wasn’t a package deal. The fact that now, one year later, one of his former McGann-Mercy players has joined the Southold/Greenport ranks is an unexpected bonus for the Clippers.

To some of the Clippers, Cari Gehring’s transfer from McGann-Mercy to Southold High School was puzzling. Why, they wondered, would a player of her ability join the Clippers for her senior season?

“We were like, ‘Why is she coming here?’ ” Abby Scharadin, a senior forward, said. “I mean, at first we were like skeptical of her. Who wants to come play for Coach Read? He’s crazy. But she’s a part of our team now and it feels like she’s been here forever.”

Scharadin was being comical in calling her colorful coach crazy, but she was dead serious when she said she expects Gehring to help the team a lot. She isn’t the only one, either.

Coming from a basketball family, Gehring played for Read’s junior varsity team at McGann-Mercy when she was a freshman. The New Suffolk resident was brought up to the varsity team as a sophomore. As a junior, however, she did not play for the Monarchs, choosing instead to focus on playing with her Westbury-based club team, FST.

Transfers of players of Gehring’s caliber don’t come along every day. She has an impressive basketball résumé. How many high school seniors can say they have played for the United States?

Gehring has. She was a point guard for the United States in the United World Games that were played in Austria this past summer. The experience gave Gehring a taste of what it must feel like to be a celebrity.

“People wanted to take pictures with us,” she said. “People were asking us for our autographs. It was weird because we’re just regular girls. They really like look up to [the] USA. It was like a really overwhelming experience.”

Earlier this month, Gehring played for Suffolk County in an all-star game against Nassau County. She was among 12 players who made the Suffolk team; 75 players tried out for the squad.

On Wednesday Gehring signed a national letter of intent to play for Chestnut Hill College, an NCAA Division II team in Philadelphia. Her older sister, Danielle, a former McGann-Mercy student herself, is a freshman guard/forward for Chestnut Hill.

Gehring undoubtedly has talent.

“She’s definitely a scorer, so she’s definitely going to be putting up points for us,” senior point guard Justina Babcock said. “That’s what we need.”

Even when Gehring was a freshman, Read could tell that she had something.

“She [is] a really tough, tough competitor,” he said. “She will not quit until she’s dead. She’s very strong. She’s a gym rat.”

Now, back to the question of why Gehring transferred. One of the big reasons is Read.

“I just couldn’t imagine my senior year playing for any other coach,” she said. “He helped me so much. I developed so much because of him.”

“He’s really been like one of the biggest people in my life since freshman year and we hated each other at first,” she continued. “I hated coming to practice at first, but I realized everything he says, he does it with good intentions, and he really helps out so much.”

Gehring played for Southold/Greenport’s team in a summer league, but said she was still a bit uneasy about transferring. Her new teammates, though, soon alleviated those concerns, she said.

“The first week of school I thought I was going to hate it, and everybody here was just so welcoming, especially the basketball girls,” Gehring said after Thursday’s practice. “They were just like welcoming me with open arms. It’s been such an easy transition. … Everyone made it so easy for me and I love it here.”

Gehring sees herself as a point guard but the Clippers will most likely use her to fill a bigger need at shooting guard, succeeding the graduated Sydney Campbell. The Clippers already have a pair of fine point guards in Shannon Smith and Babcock.

Gehring unquestionably boosts the Clippers’ stock. Read said Gehring can shoot from outside, but also likes to penetrate and take the ball to the basket.

“The way we play, she’s going to have to hustle to find her shots, just like everybody else,” Read said. “… I have no doubt that she’s going to find ways to get her baskets. Maybe that will pick everyone else’s game up, too.” He added, “She has to shoot when she can and pass when she should, and that’s true of everybody.”

But Read believes the biggest difference Gehring makes is with her defense. That’s encouraging for a team hoping to improve in that area.

“I kept looking at the [score] book and looking at the film last year,” Read said. “We did a great job offensively last year … but what we were doing was as many as we were scoring we were giving back. So this year our emphasis is going to be” on defense. “We’re going to be some team you don’t want to play.”

Read has a good memory. He hasn’t forgotten his team’s loss to Stony Brook in the Suffolk County Class C final last season, a result that left the Clippers with a 10-7 record. He said, “We’ve got a vendetta to repay against Stony Brook.”

For a team that lost Nicole Busso, Melissa Rogers and Campbell to graduation, the addition of Gehring just may be the pick-me-up the Clippers need.

“Here’s what a coach would love,” Read said. “Think about this: A kid takes the game you coach really seriously. They work at it in the off-season. Every time, they’re working in the gym. That’s what she does. What’s not to like?”

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11/01/13 9:57pm
11/01/2013 9:57 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Stony Brook's Emma Lavery, left, and Southold/Greenport's Sophie Pickerell compete for the ball during the Suffolk County Class C final.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Stony Brook’s Emma Lavery, left, and Southold/Greenport’s Sophie Pickerell compete for the ball during the Suffolk County Class C final.

SUFFOLK CLASS C FINAL | BEARS 3, CLIPPERS 3 (BEARS WIN IN PKS, 3-1)

“Good game. Good game. Good game. …” said the glum-looking Southold/Greenport Clippers, wearing tear-lined faces as they walked down the line, congratulating the new Suffolk County Class C girls soccer champions, The Stony Brook School Bears.

The Clippers had a good season, reaching the playoffs for the first time in four years and playing probably their best soccer since then. And yet, 1987 still haunts them.

The Clippers were Suffolk Class C champions in 1987, and even though they have fielded some strong teams, they haven’t won another county title in the 26 years since.

Friday night was their chance, and it looked pretty good. After falling behind, 1-0, the Clippers scored three straight goals and held a two-goal lead that, quite remarkably, evaporated in the final four minutes of regulation time. Annie Skorobohaty’s equalizer for Stony Brook with 2:03 left in the second half sent the game into overtime. Then, with the score still tied at 3-3, the teams went to soccer’s ultimate pressure-cooker, penalty kicks.

Anna Wadding, Megan Pius and Skorobohaty found the mark for Stony Brook and Fiona Farrell saved two attempts by the Clippers, helping the Bears prevail in penalty kicks, 3-1, at the St. Joseph’s College athletic complex in Patchogue. Stony Brook (7-10), which has won six county championships in seven years, will face the Nassau County champions in a Southeast Region semifinal on Tuesday in New Hyde Park.

It is hard to imagine the Clippers (7-8-1) and their coach, Katy Smith, who was 2 years old when that 1987 team was crowned, enduring a crueler loss.

“I really thought that we had it, especially with the amount of time left in the game,” said Smith, who was herself visibly shaken by the dramatic turn of events.

Asked what she says to her team after absorbing such a season-ending loss as this, Smith replied, “I have no idea.”

The teams, which split their two regular-season meetings, engaged in a wild match.

Frank Macchia coached Stony Brook in place of Mark Maningo, who was serving a one-game suspension for a red card. His team struck first. Emily Pius, a junior midfielder, gave the Clippers trouble on the right flank all game long. She received a ball from Hannah Barker before sending a long-range shot from the right side that struck the inside of the left goal post and went in just 6:51 into the contest.

But the Clippers, who held a 22-12 advantage in shots, pulled even 4:48 into the second half. The industrious Justina Babcock, a midfielder who played every one of the 110 minutes, fired a shot from long distance that Farrell couldn’t handle, and Juliane Van Gorden pounded in the rebound.

Van Gorden also delivered the cutting pass that sent Raeann Berry in on goal for the go-ahead score at 58:15. Berry curled the shot inside the left post.

Then, just 48 seconds after that, Megan Van Bourgondien drove home a laser from about 30 yards for a seemingly safe 3-1 lead.

Babcock said: “As soon as we scored that third goal, I was like: ‘Oh, we got this in the bag. It’s going to be our game.’ And then it completely changed.”

The Clippers surely didn’t count on Stony Brook scoring twice in the final four minutes of the second half. That is exactly what happened.

Following a corner kick, the ball bounced Julia Shi’s way and she tagged a long drive into the net. The real stunner, though, came 1:57 later when Skorobohaty punched in a corner kick from Emily Pius, forcing overtime.

Babcock said her heart sank. “I watched it go in the net and then I just turned around and I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

In the opening minutes of overtime, Van Bourgondien came within inches of being Southold/Greenport’s saviour. Her 35-yard strike dipped off the crossbar.

From there, it was on to penalty kicks. The Clippers had Rosario Rodriguez replace Masha Winkler in goal for the penalties.

“We were standing there, shaking the entire time,” said Van Gorden.

After Van Bourgondien coolly sent her spot kick to the right side, knotting the tense tiebreaker at 1-1, Megan Pius and Skorobohaty converted their attempts to send the Bears into celebration mode and bring the Clippers to tears.

The Clippers are no strangers to disappointment. They missed reaching the playoffs by one game in each of the past two years.

Babcock, who along with midfielder Cynthia Van Bourgondien, are the Clippers’ only seniors, said: “It’s extremely hard to know that we were up and then we just lost it, and we worked so hard and it just ended, and then, like ending my senior year, it’s just difficult to know it’s over.”

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08/27/13 8:05pm
08/27/2013 8:05 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Cindy Van Bourgondien, a four-year varsity player for Southold/Greenport, has yet to play in a playoff game.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Cindy Van Bourgondien, a four-year varsity player for Southold/Greenport, has yet to play in a playoff game.

It’s one thing to miss making it to the playoffs. It’s another thing to miss the postseason by only one game. And it’s yet another thing still to miss it by one game for the second year in a row.

That’s what the Southold/Greenport girls soccer team has had to live with last year after coming so close, agonizingly close, to its first playoff berth since 2009.

“So close,” said senior winger Cindy Van Bourgondien.

Van Bourgondien can recall the empty feeling the Clippers were left with as they pondered what might have been. They had been held to a tie by The Ross School and dropped losses to Bishop McGann-Mercy and Smithtown Christian down the stretch, sealing their fate and concluding an 8-4-2 season.

“It was really hard,” center midfielder Justina Babcock said of the season-ending defeat. “It was our final chance to make it and they just showed up to play.”

Van Bourgondien remembers crying after one of those late-season losses for a friend, Jessica Carr, who was the team’s only senior. “It was a really sad moment for me,” she said.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Justina Babcock plays striker for her club team but central midfield for Southold/Greenport.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Justina Babcock plays striker for her club team but central midfield for Southold/Greenport.

On the up side, Southold/Greenport has made definite strides since enduring a two-win season three years ago. The Clippers, who started preseason practice on Monday at Southold High School, are hoping this is the year they extend their season into the playoffs.

“I think we’re finally ready to make it to playoffs,” Van Bourgondien said. “It’s been so long.”

Babcock and Van Bourgondien are the only remaining survivors from that 2-10 team in 2010. They are also the current team’s only seniors, aside from outside midfielder Leah LaFreniere. A taste of playoff soccer would be a nice early graduation gift.

“I’ve been on varsity this whole time and I’ve never made it to a playoff game, so to get it this senior year … that would be amazing,” said Babcock.

Southold/Greenport also has an all-league sweeper, Isabelle Simon, returning for her junior season. Megan Van Bourgondien, Cindy’s cousin who plays in central midfield, is a returning starter as well along with winger/striker Julie Van Gorden, defender Michaela Manno and stopper Rosemary Volinski.

Playing in the heart of the field, Babcock will have a considerable influence on how Southold/Greenport fares. Although she played forward as a freshman (the same position she plays for her club team, the Center Moriches Spirit), Babcock handles the role of playmaker for the Clippers.

“She got thrown into center mid,” said Katy Smith, who is in her third year as Southold/Greenport’s coach. “That’s not her normal position. She would probably be at striker every day. If I told her to go there, she’d probably be much happier there, but I asked her to play that, and no questions asked, and she’s been doing it all along and never complains.”

Babcock, who was an all-conference selection last year, likes to score goals. “Scoring is obviously the best because sometimes that one goal makes the difference,” she said.

At the same time, playing in the middle of the field, and in the center of the action, suits her just fine as well.

The Clippers know what to expect from the diminutive Babcock, a serious athlete with a game face to match.

“She’s probably one of the more competitive girls I have out of the whole group, I’d say,” Smith said of her team captain. “She still is the backbone of the team, and she’s in a perfect position for that being in the center. She leads by example to a T.”

Cindy Van Bourgondien said Babcock does a “phenomenal” job. “She works her butt off,” Van Bourgondien said. “She’s always there, throughout the field, helping everyone. I mean, that’s what a center midfielder does. You’re supposed to be the support for the entire team.”

With Babcock’s support, the Clippers hope to see the playoffs.

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01/14/13 7:51pm
01/14/2013 7:51 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold’s Nicole Busso, flanked by Smithtown Christian’s Rachel Russo, left, and Gennifer Vandeventer, right, taking aim at the basket.

FIRST SETTLERS 62, KNIGHTS 31

As the picture that is the 2012-13 high school girls basketball season develops, becoming clearer and clearer with each passing game, Southold coach Joe Read urges his players to savor the moments. He calls them snapshots and reminds his seniors, in particular, that they have only so many shots left in their camera before they move on. Read encourages the First Settlers not to let moments slip by without taking notice.

“I always talk about taking snapshots,” he said. “Take a snapshot, look at your friends, look at your team, look at who you’re playing with, and remember this.”

Coming off a Long Island championship season they couldn’t forget, the First Settlers want this to be a season to remember, and they appear headed on their way.

With its 62-31 defeat of Smithtown Christian on Monday, Southold pulled to within a game of clinching a playoff berth just as it completed the first half of its Suffolk County League VIII season. The First Settlers (6-4, 5-1) also guaranteed that they retained at least a share of first place. They started the day tied for the league lead with Port Jefferson.

No wonder the First Settlers seem to sense that bigger and better things are awaiting them down the road.

“I definitely had a good feeling about this team because we had a lot of returning players from last year,” point guard Justina Babcock said. “We’re definitely going to have another good year, I think. We’ll make it far.”

When it comes to statistics, perhaps the most impressive stat of all that is related to Southold is 0 — as in the number of practices missed by its players.

“I have not had one person miss one second of practice, not one,” Read said. “That says a lot about the character. They’re strong; they’re a strong group.”

Another word might be “tough.” Sydney Campbell, who may be the team’s best all-around player, banged her jaw out of place when her head struck the head of Pierson/Bridgehampton’s Sydnee McKie-Senior during a scramble for a loose ball on Jan. 8. Campbell couldn’t close her jaw for a while and was rolled out of the gym on a gurney.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Megan Van Bourgondien of Southold charging down the court, with Smithtown Christian’s Gennifer Vandeventer giving chase.

She was at practice the next day.

“It blew my mind,” said Read.

Since then Campbell has had an ankle issue. No matter, she was in the starting lineup on Monday, as was Melissa Rogers, who has been playing with a troublesome knee.

One player Southold didn’t have on Monday is Abby Scharadin, who has a concussion. Her status is up in the air.

Southold used Michaela Christman to take Scharadin’s place in the rotation on Monday. As usual, Southold made five-for-five substitutions and played all 12 players who were dressed.

“That playing is invaluable down the road,” Read said. “All the girls have to understand what’s going on out there.”

Smithtown Christian (2-5, 1-5), by comparison, had only eight players. “We don’t have a lot of depth,” said Smithtown Christian coach Teelah Grimes.

Monday’s game was another step forward for visiting Southold. Campbell drained three 3-point shots and scored 12 points while Nicole Busso put up 10 points and 12 rebounds for Southold. Babcock added 9 points. Carley Staples and Shannon Smith combined for 13 of Southold’s 21 assists.

Smithtown Christian received 12 points from Nagee Mirabeau and 10 from Victoria Linsalato.

“You can always be happy about a win,” Babcock said. “We want to take every game the same and go hard and just try our best, and we definitely came out and did that.”

Southold held leads of 17-13, 32-20 and 48-26 after each of the first three quarters. The First Settlers held Smithtown Christian to 6-for-23 shooting from the field over the final three quarters.

“You have to give Southold credit,” said Grimes, a former Longwood High School and Dowling College player in her first season in charge of the Knights. “They went hard for almost a full 32 minutes. They’re a great team offensively and defensively.”

Southold is seeking a fifth straight playoff appearance, something that looks like a virtual certainty at this point. It could clinch a postseason place as soon as Friday when it plays at Shelter Island.

Staples has been a believer since the beginning of the season. “I had faith in us,” she said. “It wasn’t cockiness. It was just, I know we have it in us because we’re a team.”

A return to the postseason is the first goal on Southold’s checklist for this season. The First Settlers are one win away.

Picture that.

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09/25/12 6:41pm
09/25/2012 6:41 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport’s Justina Babcock, right, making a tackle on Smithtown Christian’s Chole Drzymala.

KNIGHTS 7, CLIPPERS 1

It takes a player of supreme confidence and unquestioned skill to do what Gennifer Vandeventer did on Tuesday.

As Smithtown Christian’s girls soccer game against Southold/Greenport started, Vandeventer approached Smithtown Christian coach Steve Chandler and said, “Coach, I want to do a hat trick today.”

Chandler replied, “O.K., Genn, go for it.”

That is just what the senior center midfielder did, too. Vandeventer recorded her second hat trick of the season for Smithtown Christian in a 7-1 defeat of Southold/Greenport at Southold High School. Vandeventer, who has eight goals to her credit this season, scored the first two goals of the game as well as the final one. She also had two assists, to boot.

“Genny’s got a hunger,” Chandler said. “She wants to score goals this year.”

Vandeventer, wearing a pink headband, put five of her game-high 12 shots on goal. She scored on two of her first three shots to spot Smithtown Christian (3-2, 3-1 Suffolk County League VII) a 2-0 lead.

A hand-ball call against Southold/Greenport goalkeeper Mariya Winkler, who carried the ball outside the penalty area, set up the first goal by Vandeventer, a 25-yard free kick that she drilled into the net in the 13th minute.

It was only 3 minutes 5 seconds later when Vandeventer struck again. An attempted clearance by the Southold/Greenport defense sent the ball right to Vandeventer and she drove a high shot from outside the penalty area that flew over Winkler’s head.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport freshman Rosemary Volinski using her head to knock the ball forward.

What makes Smithtown Christian a dangerous team is that Vandeventer isn’t the only one of the Knights who knows how to put the ball in the back of the net. Smithtown Christian, a Class D regional semifinalist last year, also received two goals and one assist from Chole Drzymala. Christy Clinton (assisted by Kristina Reuter) and Rebecca Giancana (assisted by Drzymala) also scored for the Knights.

Smithtown Christian had shown it can score in earlier games, including an 8-0 result against The Ross School (thanks in part to a Vandeventer hat trick) and a 6-2 pounding of Bishop McGann-Mercy.

“We’re working as a team, a unit, and we’re just winning games like we’re supposed to,” Vandeventer said. “It’s not just one person scoring, it’s everybody.”

Southold/Greenport (0-6, 0-3) would have been shut out for the fourth time this season if not for Willow Sutton’s contribution. Following passes by Jessica Carr and Juliane Van Gorden, Sutton put a shot inside the left goal post, making it 2-1 in the 31st minute.

The Clippers, still searching for their first win, have been outscored by opponents, 34-3.

“It’s been kind of a rough start,” said Southold/Greenport center midfielder Justina Babcock, who had 54 touches on the ball Tuesday. “We’re definitely a new team. We’re all new together and we have a lot of new girls coming up. We’re just trying to get our groove together and seeing what we can do as a team.”

It has been a difficult start to the season for the Clippers, but not one that they are unfamiliar with. They encountered similar difficulty at the start of last season, yet still finished just one game shy of qualifying for the playoffs.

“Last year kind of started out the same way,” Southold/Greenport coach Katy Smith said. “I had a lot of injuries right off the bat. I had to bring up girls from the J.V. It was the same type of thing.”

Winkler, a freshman transfer from Northport, played in her third varsity game since being promoted from the junior varsity team following an injury to the team’s first-string goalkeeper, junior Skye Gillispie. Gillispie broke her thumb in a game when a Mattituck player stepped on her hand. It was originally feared that she would be out for six weeks, but Smith said Gillispie may be cleared to play, at least as a field player, as soon as the team’s next game on Oct. 2 against Pierson/Bridgehampton.

Losing hasn’t been easy on the Clippers.

“It’s frustrating and I can understand,” said Smith, who continually shouts encouragement and instructions to her players from the sideline. “It kind of beats you down, but they get brought back up.”

On the plus side, Smith said she sees progress with each game.

“From the first game until this game, they’ve already made tremendous strides and have gotten so much better,” she said. “They all like each other and enjoy each other’s company and have team camaraderie, definitely. I’d say we need to become unified on the field. I think that’s really our next step, talking and understanding each other out on the field.”

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