On most days, Mattituck coach Ed Barbante would have immediately called for his returning All-County midfielder Liz Lasota on a penalty kick.
Sidelined with a pulled muscle, Lasota — who had five goals through the team’s first three games — was on the bench in street clothes when a penalty kick opportunity presented itself Thursday afternoon against Shoreham-Wading River.
So Barbante turned to a freshman, forward Nikki Zurawski, with 4:30 left in a scoreless League VII match at Mattituck High School.
The youngster delivered, drilling the ball off the hands of Shoreham goalkeeper Kelly Wynkoop. The ball deflected straight up and into the net, the only goal in Mattituck’s 1-0 victory. It was the first League VII win for the Tuckers, who are now 1-1. The Wildcats fell to 0-2.
Zurawski may be a freshman, but she’s no newcomer to varsity play. As an eighth-grader last year she scored four goals with four assists.
“That experience last year is probably going to help her out this year and for years to come,” Barbante said.
Shoreham outplayed Mattituck for most of the second half, controlling play deep in Tuckers’ territory. But when the Tuckers got their one opportunity, it was all they needed.
The penalty kick came after freshman Abby Graeb got tripped in the box. A turnover around midfield led to a through ball from Zurawski. Graeb controlled it and got behind the Shoreham defense.
“The [defender] had no choice really, either let her go and take the chance with a shot or take her down,” Barbante said. “She took her down and we were very fortunate to come away with the goal.”
Shoreham coach Adrian Gilmore said she felt like the Wildcats controlled play throughout the game. Now they need to finish opportunities.
“Unlucky with the shooting,” she said. “A couple went wide, a couple went high, a couple right at her. That was the only thing we have to work on is finishing.”
The Wildcats tried to get senior Kari Quinn with as many scoring chances as possible. She finished with 10 shots and had some of the best chances for the Wildcats.
“At one point we switched her to striker to get a couple more shots on the ball,” Gilmore said. “Unfortunately she just didn’t get the ball in the right spot.”
Gilmore said the Syracuse-bound Quinn will see time at both midfield and forward. Shannon McDonnell and Victoria Creta can both rotate as well to try keep the midfield from getting too clogged and to spread out the team’s top scoring threats.
Barbante said he felt fortunate his team managed to come away with the victory.
“There was a strech there for about 15 minutes or so where we were struggling to keep the ball out of our own end,” he said. “Somehow we figured it out. I told them at halftime all it takes is one opportunity to make play. We got fortunate and got a play made.”
Quinn started generating more chances for Shoreham through the beginning of the second half. On one play she dribbled along the end line and around two defenders that led to a corner kick. With about 18 minutes left in the half she dribbled into the box and fired a hard shot that was saved. Barbante quickly warned his team that Quinn was getting hot and implored his defense to stick on her.
Shortly after she got tripped to set up a free kick. Quinn lofted the ball toward the net and Mattituck goalie Stephanie Reisenberg made the save. The ball deflected momentarily back out, but no one on the Wildcats was there to pounce. Reisenberg quickly dove back on top of the ball.
Reisenberg finished with 11 saves.
With a largely new team compared to last season after losing 13 players to graduation, the Tuckers faced a stiff test against a Shoreham team that has been a playoff mainstay in Class A. And they did it without Lasota, who was injured in practice prior to the team’s game against Mount Sinai. She attempted to play that game — a 2-0 overtime loss — but couldn’t play at a high level.
“She played about the first 15 minutes and I pulled her off,” Barbante said.
Mattituck gets right back at it Friday afternoon on Homecoming for a rare set of back-to-back games. The Tuckers host Southampton at 4:30 p.m.