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First-place West Islip living up to its potential

West Islip's Martina Tinnirello slaps away the ball

West Islip's Martina Tinnirello slaps away the ball from Newfield's Shannon Donerty in front of an open goal in the second half. (Oct. 16, 2013) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Potential -- noun: latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success.

For the West Islip field hockey team, potential was defined by flashes of brilliance -- fleeting moments in which the Lions showed what they were capable of. But seldom was it sustained.

Those are marks of a team that had a 15-15 record the previous two years. Both seasons resulted in playoff berths and first-round victories, followed by silent second-round ousters. A step forward, a step back.

"I've felt my team had more potential than they sometimes showed," coach Josephine Hassett said. "When they've done the right things on the field, they've been unstoppable at times."

And when potential becomes production, that aforementioned future success becomes real.

Thusly, West Islip is 11-2, in first place in Division II and in position to secure a high seed in the Suffolk Class A playoffs. Things have gone so well for the Lions, they even swept the season series with rival East Islip, a team they hadn't beaten in seven years.

"Our team has been building toward this and it's been incredible," said midfielder Martina Tinnirello, a captain and one of the Lions' 10 seniors. "We have the experience and it's all finally coming together."

The seniors have starred. Kiera Kelly is sixth in Suffolk with 22 points, including 13 assists. Justine DeLuca has 19 points (14 goals). Danielle Ciolino (nine points) scored the winner in overtime of West Islip's 2-1 win over upstart Newfield on Wednesday. And Olivia Kelly was stellar with 17 saves, several of them acrobatic.

As well, freshman Emily Beier already has become a deft midfielder and sophomore Nicole Byrne helps anchor the defense. Senior Grace Davidson, despite starting field hockey last year, has quickly flourished. This group, Hassett said, "has the ability to do it all."

That's potential.

It's use in a sentence: "We're determined to win every game in the playoffs," Tinnirello said, "and I really believe we have the potential to do it."

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