Five years ago, the prodding of a friend and a whim landed Emily Metz in front of a cage, facing lacrosse balls fired her way.
As Metz recalls, she was a seventh-grader when teammate Michelle Waters “forced” her to play lacrosse. And then, a position needed to be filled.
“No one wanted to be a goalie so I was like, ‘I guess I will,’ ” Metz said. “I nominated myself. I was scared, but once you get hit [by the ball], you don’t get scared any more.”
Bumps and bruises come with the position that Metz has grown to love. She sported a new bruise on her arm Monday, which was a typical game day for Metz and the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold Tuckers she plays for. The Southold High School senior saw plenty of shots, made 12 saves and the Tuckers lost, 15-7, to the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes at Cutchogue West Elementary School.
It was a busy afternoon for Metz, but that’s just the way she likes it.
“I don’t like standing around,” she said. “It gets boring.”
Being the goalkeeper for a second-year varsity team is a surefire way to avoid boredom. Metz routinely sees a lot of shots. While that isn’t necessarily good for the Tuckers, it has undoubtedly helped in her development as a shot-stopper.
“She comes up big,” Mattituck/Greenport/Southold Coach Kaitlin Leggio said. “She just works hard and she’s very motivating. You could hear her on the field. She’s helping the girls; she makes great saves.”
Leggio recalled one game in which 25 shots were directed Metz’s way. “That can beat you up mentally and physically, but she always rides above that,” Leggio said. “Without her, we’d be in trouble.”
Not that the Tuckers haven’t experienced bumps of their own as a team. In their inaugural season last year, they went 1-11. They lost their first seven games this season before recording a 14-11 home win over the Center Moriches Red Devils on Friday. Multiple goals came to the Tuckers from Laurel Bertolas (four), Katie Hoeg (three) and Sydney Sanders (two).
The result left the Copiague Eagles and the Southampton Mariners as the only winless teams in the county.
“It was like a new beginning,” said Metz, who has played every minute of every game in goal for the Tuckers in their short varsity history.
The Tuckers know they can’t expect miracles overnight. Improvement takes time.
“We’re really positive about it,” Metz said. “We know that the program’s growing and we can’t push it.”
Try as they did, the Tuckers found themselves outmatched by Westhampton Beach (7-4, 6-4 in Suffolk County Division II), which is making a push for the playoffs. The Hurricanes, with five goals from Haley Laube (four on free-position shots), cruised with little trouble, building leads of 8-1, 12-2 and 13-4.
Alexa Smith struck for three goals and Ciara McKeon added two as eight Hurricanes found the net. And that was with Metz making saves on several shots that looked like sure goals.
“She played awesome,” Hoeg said. “She always does great every game. She always makes those saves you don’t think she’ll make, but she makes them.”
Still, the Hurricanes are athletic, fast and have played at the varsity level longer than the Tuckers (1-8, 1-8) have.
Hoeg pumped in three goals for the Tuckers, who also received single strikes from Laurel Bertolas, Nikki L’Hommedieu, Jess Stumpf and Natalie Troisi, who also had an assist.
Westhampton Beach Coach Ann Naughton, who has known Leggio since the Tuckers coach was a high school player, said Leggio will “take them in the right direction. It’s hard. It’s tough. There are no easy games. The kids have to keep in there and just keep plugging away and not focus on the winning and losing, but trying to get better each game.”
Leggio said: “Each day we see something new. Today … our shots weren’t terrific, but we transitioned up the field better than what we’ve done in the past. It’s just putting all those things together in one game. We are a day-by-day type of team and each day we progress on something else and we see something new in a game that we’re doing a little bit better.”
The Tuckers may not have won their last game, either. Said Metz, “I’m feeling another one.”