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Kate Gilligan's resilience inspirational for Northport's field hockey team

Northport's Kate Gilligan makes a save in overtime

Northport's Kate Gilligan makes a save in overtime during matchup against Sachem East on Wednesday Oct. 7, 2015 at Sachem East High School. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Northport field hockey goalie Kate Gilligan plays twice as hard to make up for lost time.

She totaled only six games as a sophomore and junior while recovering from a gastric problem and then surgery on a torn right labrum. Now a senior, she is recovering from both issues, playing a limited schedule and hopes to be at full strength next year at Fairfield College.

Getting back on the field did not come easily. Gilligan, who made the varsity team as an eighth-grader, said she began experiencing stomach pain the following season. She had to restrict what she ate, but still made her presence known in net. She played in all 16 games as a freshman as the Tigers went 13-3 with eight shutouts and made the playoffs.

“Sophomore year they couldn’t diagnose me,” she said. “I had to do a lot of testing. I was in a lot of pain every day because everything that I ate hurt. It really affected my playing and everything.”

Her condition was diagnosed as chronic gastritis, according to her mother, Stephanie Gilligan.

“I wasn’t officially out, but I wasn’t playing at my best,” Kate said.

She played in a few minutes of six games before coach Gina Walling shut her down for the season

“You could see the pain in her face, and as a coach you hate watching her struggle like that, but because we had another option, and just seeing she was just so uncomfortable, we just didn’t see the need to make it any worse,” Walling said. “She did not go down without a fight. As hard as it was, her health had to come first. She still was on the sidelines; she was coaching the team. All the things a good captain should do, she was doing.”

After her abbreviated sophomore year, Gilligan missed her entire junior season because of  a torn labrum in her right hip that required surgery.

Gilligan has played in 12 of 13 games this season, including a shutout of defending Class A state champion Ward Melville, in which she played the entire 60 minutes. Her presence has meant the world to the Tigers (10-3, 10-1 Suffolk I).

“Even with her not being able to 100 percent move the way that she used to, she is still a top goalie,” Walling said. “That speaks to how good she is. Even with some limitations, she is still one of the top goalies in Suffolk.”

And her teammates are glad to have her back in the cage.

"She’s always been amazing,” said Northport defender Sophia Little, who has played with Gilligan for six years. “She didn’t let it stop her. She just kept playing through it, and didn’t use it as an excuse, she just used it to get better.”

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