CLIPPERS 1, BLUE WAVES 0
Sarah Tuthill prefers playing on the left side of a field hockey field instead of the right side. She said she feels more comfortable there.
Greenport/Southold/Shelter Island may be more comfortable having the freshman play on the left side as well, especially if she produces like she did on Thursday.
Tuthill, playing left inner, scored the game’s only goal as the Clippers defeated Riverhead for the first time in at least seven years.
It has been that sort of a season for the Clippers, who are enjoying their best season since, well, who knows? Not even coach Todd Gulluscio could say the last time the Clippers have done as well as they are doing this year. They hold an 8-5 record, 7-5 in Suffolk County Division III, with three games remaining in the regular season. Not bad for a team that was seeded 10th before the season.
“I knew we were going to be good,” Tuthill said, “but I didn’t know we were going to be this good.”
Prior to the game, Greenport was in seventh place, and Riverhead was right behind it in the eighth slot. Both teams have hopes of scratching out a playoff berth, which goes to the top six teams in the division.
“We have a goal, and we want to reach that goal,” said Tuthill, who was a starting defender for the Clippers last year.
Greenport took a step in the right direction with its win at Riverhead High School. After Riverhead goaltender Allison Doscinski had made three straight saves, Tuthill was in place to knock a rebound into an unguarded goal 18 minutes 36 seconds into the game.
It was a well-deserved goal for the Clippers (8-5, 7-5), who controlled much of the game, boxing Riverhead (5-7, 5-6) in its own end. The Clippers outshot the Blue Waves, 11-2.
Tuthill nearly added a second goal later in the first half, but was denied by a Doscinski leg save on a first-time shot by Tuthill off a pass from Sarah Manfredi. It was one of eight saves by Doscinski.
Greenport goaltender Alexis Reed needed to make only two saves for the shutout. The most significant play she made on the day was not an official save, although it might have saved the day for the Clippers. In the final minutes of the first half, Riverhead had what might have been its best scoring chance. Melodee Riley was charging forward on the left side on a counterattack, but Reed charged far out of her goal to make a sliding tackle, kicking the ball away.
“That slide tackle right there was outstanding,” said Gulluscio, whose team lost to Riverhead earlier this season in penalty strokes.
While the Greenport defense of Erin Creedon, Emily King, Megan Mundy, Lauren Ficurilli and Manfredi did well to keep the pressure off Reed, the aggressive Clippers exerted plenty of pressure of their own. On the attack they had Victoria Gonzalez, Kerri Hands, Breanna Hallman, Toni Esposito and Tuthill giving the Blue Waves all they could handle.
Gulluscio, who had said this seventh season will mark his final year as the team’s coach, said his players have learned how to win. “All these kids have been doing a great job,” he said. “They’re working hard in practice. They’re fighting hard in games. They’re doing all the things they need to do to win, and the results are there.”
Both teams have three regular-season games remaining, but Riverhead faces a tougher road. All three of its upcoming opponents — Shoreham-Wading River, Pierson/Bridgehampton and Comsewogue — are seeded higher than the Blue Waves. Riverhead has finished in seventh place, one spot out of the playoffs, the past two years. But the Riverheaders haven’t given up hope that this year will be the year they make it.
“We’re always so close and yet too far away to get it,” Doscinski, one of the team’s eight seniors, said. “We have so many girls who have great abilities, and when you put all of them together, it’s just unbelievable. They’re all awesome. It’s just all those skills need to come together and time’s getting short.”
Riverhead coach Cheryl Walsh is no fan of the power-rating system that determines the standings in Suffolk County field hockey, but she understands full well how it works.
“Every year it’s a fight. This year is no different,” she said. “You have to beat the people who are obviously seeded below you, and then you have to upset someone who’s ahead of you. We’re not in the playoffs unless we beat someone ahead of us.”