09/27/13 2:30pm
09/27/2013 2:30 PM

TORNADOES 3, Clippers 0

The Greenport/Southold field hockey team arrived four minutes after the scheduled start for its Thursday afternoon match at Harborfields Thursday due to traffic, but that wasn’t necessarily the end of the world.

The Clippers dropped a 3-0 decision to the Tornadoes, but that wasn’t necessarily the end of the world.

And the North Fork team lost for the third consecutive time after starting the season with two victories, but that wasn’t necessarily the end of the world, either.

Yes, the defeat hurt, but Greenport has a new spirit and outlook this season. The Clippers finished 2012 with one win. They already have doubled that total with 2-3 record in Division III.

“It certainly helped with the momentum and the spirit that we have,” said goalie Brandi Gonzalez, who was outstanding with 20 saves against Harborfields.

“It’s important. It definitely boosts our spirits,” coach Rebecca Lillis said. “We won our opening game against Port Jefferson in overtime. It sets their mindset for the season, knowing that we are capable of winning, even though we are a young team. Today’s game shows the improvements that we made. Whether we win or lose, we’re always gaining something from it.”

On Thursday, the hosts gained a win as Nicole Bifulco, Taylor Miltner and Caroline Saros led the Tornadoes (4-2, 4-2) with one goal apiece. Goalie Chandler Banks did not make a save.

Gonzalez, a senior who wore an unusual number 199 because of a uniform manufacturer’s mistake, stood out beyond what was on her back. She played an outstanding game, denying Harborfields several goals.

“I was pretty impressed our defense kept it down to 3-0, highly impressed with Brandi Gonzalez,” Lillis said. “Her skill has grown over the years. I think today was one of those games has shown, diving for the ball and having stick saves. In years past, it could have been a little bit worse. But I think Brandi was the player of the game.”

Lillis wasn’t the only person who noticed. Several times during the game, Harborfields coach Lauren Thomas shouted out to Gonzalez after denying her team a goal, “Nice save goalie.”

“Their goalie was phenomenal,” Thomas said afterward.

Greenport had put the ball into the Harborfields net with 16:24 left in the first half, but the apparent goal was disallowed because it was taken outside the 20-foot circle.

“It was very smart of my goalie to let the ball go in because she knew that no one on the other team had touched it,” Thomas said. “So by letting it go in, we get the ball back. The communication there was smart.”

Some 41 seconds later, Bifulco scored off a Chelsea Abreu feed to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

“It actually helped us a lot to be able to recover from that and get back onto our goal,” Abreu said.

Chelsea Skipper set up Miltner with 11:55 remaining in the half and Erin Malico, off a Caroline Saros pass, closed out the scoring with 8:06 to go in the match.

Abreu stood out for another reason — her ability to dribble and balance the ball on her stick, known as aerial dribbling — while running through the defense.

“It’s a cool skill to be able to use on the field,” Abreu said. “It helps me to dodge people. It’s something that we like to do to confuse the other teams because not a lot of other teams utilize that skill.”

The Clippers arrived at the field at 4:34 p.m, four minutes after the scheduled start. They had left Greenport at 2:55 p.m., but traffic had other plans in mind.

“It’s a lot of traffic,” Lillis said. “We’re far away. It’s a long ride. You’ve got a long trip here. that’s the one thing I don’t like about it. You have kind of a forced, quick warm-up on their field. That’s one thing I’m not too fond when we have to play the distance. It is what it is.”

Thomas had no problems postponing the start and asked Lillis about some advice about getting to Greenport. The Tornadoes play there Oct. 23.

It might have been a long trip back home, but Lillis was optimistic about the future.

“I’m happy with the team,” she said. “We have a lot of build on. We have a lot to work on. We still have half of our season left. I expect good things from the girls.”

09/09/13 8:08pm
09/09/2013 8:08 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Madison Tabor, right, challenging for the ball, scored Greenport/Southold's first goal.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Madison Tabor, right, challenging for the ball, scored Greenport/Southold’s first goal.

CLIPPERS 2, ROYALS 1 (OT)

Four seconds. Four measly ticks of the clock.

That is how close Port Jefferson and Greenport/Southold came to experiencing the new shootout system that has been introduced this year to settle New York State high school field hockey games that are tied through overtime.

Sarah Tuthill, however, made that unnecessary. The junior left inner’s game-winning goal with four seconds left in sudden-victory overtime brought Greenport/Southold a dramatic 2-1 triumph in the season-opening Suffolk County Division III game for both teams on Monday. Kelly Dacimo assisted.

Talk about drama. Tuthill, the team’s longest-serving player who is in her fourth varsity season, said she had never scored a bigger goal in her life.

“That was amazing,” Tuthill said. “I think the first thing I said was, ‘Thank God.’ ”

Tuthill dodged a throng of Port Jefferson players before sending her shot toward the far right corner. “I was just hoping it would go in,” she said.

The ball was right on target, skipping in and banging off the backboard with a thud, the happiest sound in field hockey (at least for the scoring team).

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Port Jefferson's Chiara Rabenno, left, and Greenport/Southold's Gina Seas going shoulder to shoulder in pursuit of the ball.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Port Jefferson’s Chiara Rabenno, left, and Greenport/Southold’s Gina Seas going shoulder to shoulder in pursuit of the ball.

“I jumped,” Greenport/Southold right inner Madison Tabor said. “I was so happy — so happy.”

If winning in sudden-victory overtime is the best way to win, losing in such a manner may be the worst way to lose. After the game, the reactions of the two teams couldn’t have been much more different. While the jubilant Clippers celebrated, the dejected Port Jefferson players trudged off to their team bus in dead silence.

“It’s the way I want to start the season,” Greenport/Southold coach Rebecca Lillis said. “I’m proud of them. Like I said before, they’re dedicated, and all the pieces came together today. It was two hard weeks of preseason prep work for this moment, and it’s worth it.”

The result was the Clippers’ second win in three games, dating back to last season when they defeated Port Jefferson on the same field. It was the first interscholastic sporting event for the fall season at Greenport High School, not to mention opening day. That in itself brought added excitement for the Clippers.

“The girls were pretty pumped,” Lillis said. “I told them it was like ESPN ‘GameDay’.”

And they played like they were in front of a national audience, too.

Despite enjoying the lion’s share of the possession, Greenport/Southold fell behind, 1-0, when Port Jefferson scored on its first shot, a goal off a counterattack by Teresa Gomes 19 minutes 4 seconds into the game. Following a penalty corner by Greenport/Southold, Gomes collected the ball well inside her team’s half of the field, carried it forward and slammed a shot past goalie Brandi Gonzalez.

The Clippers’ hearts must have sank.

“It was a little discouraging … but we had to keep going,” Tabor said. “We couldn’t give up then because we could still win. The game wasn’t over.”

The Clippers suddenly found themselves in the odd position of enjoying advantages in every major statistical category except the most important one: goals.

Tabor took care of that, though. The freshman, assisted by Tuthill, knocked an equalizer past sprawling goalie Tammy Serabian (9 saves) with 14:13 left in the second half.

Gonzalez stopped a low penalty stroke by Gomes with her pads with 11:52 to go, keeping the score even. Greenport/Southold also killed off two delay of game penalties in the second half that left the Clippers at a player disadvantage for two minutes each.

And so the game went to overtime, when the field opened up as each side was limited to seven players instead of 11.

Gonzalez came up big during overtime, knocking aside a shot by Shannon Fee for one of her 6 saves.

Then, in the dying moments, Tuthill and the Clippers got their reward for perseverance. For the Clippers, the first game of the season left them with a lot to feel good about.

“It’s awesome,” Tabor said. “It feels great because we’re undefeated now.”

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09/03/13 2:30pm
09/03/2013 2:30 PM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Victoria Hilton is one of many players who saw a lot of playing time last year for the Clippers.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Victoria Hilton is one of many returning players who saw a lot of playing time last year for the Clippers.

PREVIEW

The Greenport/Southold field hockey players may want to consider wearing pink uniforms for all of their games this coming season. Last year the Clippers secured their only win of the season while wearing pink tie-dye shirts in a 3-1 defeat of Port Jefferson in their next-to-last game. It was a Play for the Cure game that raised money for breast cancer awareness.

Additionally, it gave the Clippers (1-14 last year) a boost of enthusiasm heading into the 2013 season.

“It was a hard season last year,” the team’s second-year coach, Rebecca Lillis, said. “It’s always hard to lose a lot of games.”

But those losses apparently didn’t dent the team’s determination. What may help the Clippers even more than pink shirts this year is the commitment they have shown during the off-season. It was exactly that determination that Lillis attributed to that win last October. “They remained positive, dedicated, and they kept looking for that win,” she said.

Lillis said most of her players attended a winter clinic she set up for players in grades 5 and older. “When I look at my team, I just see dedicated players who love the sport,” she said.

The bulk of the team returns, led by freshman forward Madison Tabor and junior forward Sarah Tuthill, who captains the squad along with goalie Brandi Gonzalez. Tabor and Tuthill were both all-division players last year. Forward Victoria Hilton, midfielder Mairi Creedon, forward Toni Esposito (3 goals), goalie Katie Tuthill (Sarah’s sister), defender Liz Towe, defender Stephanie Clark and midfielder Suzie Bunchuck all saw substantial playing time last year.

“It is a good situation,” Lillis said. “I’d say all of them have improved.”

Kelly Dacimo, senior transfer from Connecticut, plays center midfield and is expected to be a big help. Also new to the team are midfielder Gina Seas, forward Adrianna Chandler and defender Maria Soriano.

Tabor, Esposito and Katie Tuthill have been playing for the varsity team since they were in seventh grade. “I call them my little ones,” said Lillis.

Because of low numbers, this is the second year in which the Clippers will not field a junior varsity team. The Clippers, who once drew players from Greenport, Southold, Mattituck and Shelter Island, are now supplied with players from only the first two schools named.

The Clippers, seeded 12th among the 13 teams in Suffolk County Division III, will need to pick up their offense. The three goals they scored in the win over Port Jefferson were a season-high. It marked only the second time they scored more than once in a game. They were shut out nine times.

But it should be remembered that Greenport/Southold fielded a young team last year, with three eighth-graders seeing playing time.

Lillis has been encouraged by what she has seen from the early practices. “The first day of preseason practice felt like the last day of last season,” she said. “Everything fell right in place.”

Lillis said her players learned from their losses and are excited about the approaching new season. Because of divisional realignment, the Clippers will play games against teams they had not seen a lot in recent years, such as Harborfields, Babylon and Bayport-Blue Point.

The team’s first game will be Sept. 9 against Port Jefferson.

“I think they’re all ambitious and ready to go,” Lillis said. “They’re ready. I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls. I’m just thrilled with the enthusiasm and the dedication.”

It may be even better than the pink shirts.

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10/22/12 7:33pm
10/22/2012 7:33 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island’s Toni Esposito exults after scoring 1 minute 48 seconds into Monday’s game against Port Jefferson.

CLIPPERS 3, ROYALS 1

When two field hockey teams with one win between them, mired at the bottom of Suffolk County Division III, play each other in a game with no playoff implications whatsoever, one might think there would not be a lot riding on the outcome.

Think again.

Monday’s game had meaning for Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island, playing its final home game of the season and after 13 games still searching for its first win of the year. It was also Senior Day for the team’s three seniors as well as a Play for the Cure game, which raised money for breast cancer awareness.

The opponent was Port Jefferson, a team that had beaten the Clippers, 2-0, earlier in the season in a game that was stopped in the second half because of inclement weather. If Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island was to get a win this season, it would almost certainly have to come against Port Jefferson since the Clippers’ final game against undefeated Miller Place on Tuesday holds little promise for them.

So, the Clippers made the most of their opportunity.

Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island and its first-year head coach, Rebecca Lillis, had to wait a while for their first win of the season, but that didn’t make the team’s victory on Monday any less sweeter. The Clippers finally made it into the win column courtesy of a 3-1 triumph over Port Jefferson at Greenport High School. Toni Esposito scored two goals and Wendy Peterson assisted on the first two goals for the Clippers (1-13 overall and in Division III).

“We all wanted this win,” Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island right inner Madison Tabor said. “It was amazing. We worked so hard this season to get it. I’m so proud of all of us.”

The win was as meaningful to Peterson, as anyone else. During a halftime ceremony, Lillis presented flowers to the left wing as well as the team’s two other seniors, fullback Daniele Freeman and midfielder Julissa Corla.

“It means very much to us because we’ve worked hard this whole season, and just to get this one win is great,” said Peterson.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | One of Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island’s three seniors, Wendy Peterson, pushing the ball forward while being chased by Port Jefferson’s Caroline Biondo.

The three goals represented a season-high output for the Clippers, and only the second time they have scored more than once in a game. They have been shut out eight times this season.

Perhaps it was the pink tie-dye shirts that the Clippers wore for the Play for the Cure game that brought added zest to their play. The players and assistant coach Maria Troisi made the shirts last week.

Call it pink magic. Esposito opened the scoring 1 minute 48 seconds into the game when she converted a centering pass from Peterson.

Allegra Fills-Aime had tied the score at 1-1 for Port Jefferson (1-13, 1-12) 4:33 later.

Then Katie Tuthill’s goal gave the Clippers a 2-1 lead with 3:01 left in the first half.

Esposito all but sealed the result when, off a pass from Mairi Creedon, she scored an insurance goal — her third of the season — on a breakaway with 13:50 left in the game.

“I think it was one of our better games this season,” said Peterson, who played the entire game except for the final 1:54 as a result of a yellow card she was shown for not allowing five feet of space on a free hit. “We worked as a team, which is really good because we’ve been struggling with that all season, but we finally got it down.”

The final score was perhaps a bit unfair to Port Jefferson, which allowed the Clippers only four shots. The Royals earned 10 short corners, twice as many as the Clippers. And yet, something was missing.

“They moved to the ball, we didn’t,” said Port Jefferson coach Debbie Brown.

It hasn’t been a kind season to either Port Jefferson or Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island.

“It’s a struggle,” said Brown, who doesn’t have a single senior on her squad. “Every day is a struggle. We don’t have enough subs. We don’t have enough players, and when you’re losing, the girls by the end of the season kind of lose their motivation. They’ve had some great games that we lost. We’ve had some games we should have won. Today we didn’t play well and Greenport came out on fire.”

Some might call this a hangover season for the Clippers, who lost 11 players from last year’s team, which reached the playoffs for the first time since at least 1987.

“We lost a lot of people,” Esposito said. “We knew that we had to work hard this season to get better.”

The team’s progress over the course of the season was seen in Monday’s game.

“They’re beyond excited,” Lillis said. “I think it was really good for them. It picked up their spirits. It’s been a tough season for them, and they needed this.”

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09/13/12 7:43pm
09/13/2012 7:43 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island players lined up to hear a pregame message from one of the game officials.

COLONIALS 0, CLIPPERS 0 (COLONIALS WON IN PENALTY STROKES, 2-1)

Despite dominating possession and field position, the goal that the William Floyd field hockey team was looking for continued to evade the Colonials. If shots didn’t go wide of the mark or weren’t blocked by the maze of bodies and sticks clogging the way in front of the Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island goal, they were saved by goalkeeper Brandi Gonzalez.

It went this way through 60 minutes of regulation time, and then another 10 minutes of overtime in which, by rule, the game was reduced to a seven-on-seven contest.

Finally, William Floyd found a way to put the ball in the cage, but not until the Suffolk County Division III game had gone to penalty strokes.

Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island’s plucky defense held off William Floyd for 70 scoreless minutes on Thursday before ultimately falling in penalty strokes in Mastic Beach. Christina Zurica, a senior defender, pushed her attempt to the low right side for the tie-breaking goal in William Floyd’s 2-1 triumph in penalty strokes.

“A rush came in to me,” Zurica said. “I wanted to dance, but I had to keep my composure and just walk away. I was very excited. Very excited.”

Zurica’s goal came in the fourth round of penalty strokes. The next two shooters, Madison Tabor of Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island and Caitlyn Palladino of William Floyd, saw their shots saved. Then, Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island’s captain, Sarah Tuthill, sent her shot wide to the right, ending it. The Colonials rejoiced.

The result was good tonic for William Floyd (1-3, 1-1 in Division III), which went winless and didn’t even score a goal two years ago before registering only two wins last season.

“They really needed this as a confidence-booster, knowing that they can win games,” said William Floyd coach Paula Malguarnera.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | William Floyd’s Theresa Ardolino, left, and Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island’s Victoria Hilton crossing paths and sticks.

It was Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island (0-2, 0-2) that struck first in penalty strokes, with Wendy Peterson flipping in her shot to the left of goalkeeper Kerri Brownell for a 1-0 lead. But Theresa Ardolino evened things up for William Floyd on the next attempt.

Brownell, who did not need to make a save during regulation time or overtime, stopped two shots during penalty strokes, as did her counterpart, Gonzalez. Gonzalez sticked aside the first penalty stroke by Jaye Kudreyko, and later made an almost casual kick save on Palladino’s attempt in the fifth round.

The Clippers didn’t pick up their first win for their new coach, Rebecca Lillis, but just reaching penalty strokes might have felt like a victory of sorts. William Floyd put the visiting defense under intense pressure. Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island pushed the ball across the midfield line only a handful of times, and earned only one short corner to 18 for the Colonials.

“I was really nervous, but I knew my defense had my back, so it was all good,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, who recorded six saves through regulation time and overtime, made one sparkling stop, but she also had some help from her friends. The defense was anchored by fullbacks Mairi Creedon and Daniele Freeman, with Tuthill playing defensively as a center midfielder.

The Clippers had only two substitutes available, which meant there was little rest for the weary.

“Seventy minutes, limited subs, a very young team,” Lillis said. “I’m very proud of them all.” She added: “They worked really hard today. They hung in there.”

One of William Floyd’s best scoring chances came early in the game when Courtney Murphy drove the ball dangerously across the face of the goalmouth without it being met by a William Floyd stick.

As time ticked off in the goalless game, the tension mounted.

“It gets frustrating,” said Zurica, one of William Floyd’s 12 seniors. “You just got to keep your head up, get a goal in. If we just had better passes, we wouldn’t need to have gone into [penalty strokes], but it’s fine with me.”

Gonzalez has some big shoes to fill, taking over the position that Alexis Reed played before moving on to play goal for Wilkes University (Penn.). But Gonzalez, who filled in for a couple of games last year while Reed was injured, seems at ease with the position and the situation. “I feel no pressure to follow after her,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just going to do my best.”

Building up from the defense first is Lillis’ plan. “We’re starting from scratch, and this is what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re going to build around Brandi. We have a very good goalkeeper.”

The Clippers are still awaiting their first goal of the season. They were shut out by Pierson/Bridgehampton, 6-0, in their season-opening game earlier in the week.

“We couldn’t get that final piece in, but we’re going to work on it,” Lillis said. “We have to connect our defense to our front line. Our front line is there, ready to score.”

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09/12/12 8:00am
09/12/2012 8:00 AM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Last year, in his seventh and final season as Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island’s coach, Todd Gulluscio guided the Clippers to their first playoff berth since at least 1987.

Even under ordinary circumstances, Rebecca Lillis would have a lot on her plate, taking over as the Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island field hockey team’s new coach. But Lillis may have even bigger things to worry about than just a varsity team, like the program and the future of the sport that she loves.

Because of low numbers, Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island does not have a junior varsity team this season. Lillis said other schools have seen junior varsity teams fall by the wayside as well, and it concerns her.

“It’s a dying sport right now on the North Fork,” said Lillis, who has 15 players on her varsity team.

In an attempt to promote the sport, the Clippers will stage an alumni game for the second year in a row before their Oct. 6 home game against Pierson/Bridgehampton.

Lillis and her players have their work cut out for them on the field as well. The Clippers not only lost 11 players from last year’s team, but they will play a tougher schedule this season. “It’s going to be a hard season,” she said.

That is their reward for reaching the playoffs last year for the first time since at least 1987. Todd Gulluscio’s seventh season as the Clippers’ coach was his best. The team finished in sixth place in Suffolk County Division III. A 3-1 loss to Harborfields in a Suffolk Class B Tournament outbracket game put the finishing touch on a 10-7 season. Gulluscio, who remains the Greenport athletic director, finished with a 28-80 (.259) career record. Forty-one of those losses came in his first three years.

Lillis, a former goaltender for the Clippers before she graduated from Southold High School in 1999, coached the junior high school team for two years before running the junior varsity team for the past two years. And now she has a new challenge.

“I’m excited to be back,” she said. “Todd has been a great mentor … for me. I learned a lot from him.”

Sarah Tuthill, a sophomore center midfielder who scored the Clippers’ goal in the playoff game, remains one of the team’s strongest players. She was an all-league player last year. “She is a positive role model on the field and off the field,” said Lillis.

Tuthill returns along with five other starters from last year: senior left wing Wendy Peterson, eighth-grade right wing Toni Esposito, eighth-grade defender Madison Tabor and eighth-grade left midfielder Katie Tuthill, who is Sarah’s sister.

Brandi Gonzalez, a senior goalie, filled in for two games when Alexis Reed (Wilkes University in Pennsylvania) was injured. Kyla Smiley, a freshman with only one year of field hockey experience at the junior high level, shows a lot of potential and will play left inner, said Lillis. Victoria Hilton, a junior, is also expected to be on the front line.

Daniele Freeman, a senior defender, may find herself in the starting lineup along with junior defender Mairi Creedon and sophomore midfielder Liz Powe. Also new to the team are freshman midfielder Suzie Bunchuck, sophomore forward Stephanie Clark, freshman goalie Danielle Fauteux and senior forward Courtney Weber.

“I feel like I have the nicest group of girls,” Lillis said. “They embrace one another. They’re friendly with one another. They’re kind of the definition of sportsmanship in my book.”

Lillis said the front line looks good, but the defense has to be built up. Qualifying for the postseason last year was a big step, she said, but the graduation of 11 seniors took its toll.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but I think my team is up for it,” she said. “They walked away with smiles on their faces last year from that playoff game. We’re going to give it our all.”

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