Field Hockey: Playing in pink, Lillis’ Clippers pick up first win

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.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

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