CLASS B COUNTY FINAL | RED DEVILS 2, TUCKERS 0
There was never much mystery surrounding which two teams would play for the Class B county championship.
After battling for the county title last year — Center Moriches 1-0 victors over Mattituck — the two teams were on a crash-course to meet again for the championship. In the week leading up to Monday’s rematch at Diamond in the Pines, Mattituck coach Ed Barbante said his team put together its best week of practice.
“The girls were on a mission,” he said. “I felt like this year was our year.”
Instead, it was the Red Devils again, with a similar foe delivering the decisive play. Center Moriches senior Alexis Parlato struck for two second-half goals to lift the Red Devils to a 2-0 victory and their third straight county title. The top-seeded Red Devils bounced No. 2 Mattituck from the playoffs for the third straight year since the Tuckers’ last county title victory in 2008. Center Moriches plays either Cold Spring Harbor or Carle Place Saturday looking to defend its Long Island championship.
“It’s frustrating,” Barbante said. “The second year in a row in the county finals. It doesn’t get any worse than that.”
Center Moriches won its 11th county title in school history and for the first time strung together three in a row. The two schools have combined for 25 county titles.
Parlato was the hero for Center Moriches (11-1-4) in last year’s final as well when she scored the game’s only goal on a controversial play. There was no disputing her two goals this year — a pair of booming shots that she roped inside the right post to leave Mattituck goalkeeper Stephanie Reisenberg no shot at saving.
Center Moriches coach Lea Brady said Parlato, who came up to varsity during the playoffs as an eighth-grader, is the most experienced player on the team.
“She really took the initiative tonight and led us,” Brady said. “The effort kind of speaks for itself.”
Parlato’s huge second half came after she missed a penalty kick in the 26th minute, shooting a low shot wide right. She more than made up for it in the second half.
In the 52nd minute she got free down the middle, controlled a pass from freshman Alexandria Krauss and ripped the ball into the top right corner of the goal from about 20 yards away.
Barbante said the Tuckers (9-7-1) got caught holding the ball too long while trying to dribble out of the back and lost it.
“She got stuck under and they switched real quick and [Parlato] found a lane and she was a sniper with her left foot,” he said. “She just buried it.”
Falling behind by a goal put the Tuckers in a precarious position. The Red Devils had given up one lonely goal all season. That came in the regular season finale against Bayport-Blue Point, a 1-0 loss. The Phantoms play Wednesday for the Class A county championship.
Led by goalkeeper Kelsey Glanzman, the Center Moriches defense has frustrated opponents game after game. The Red Devils’ speedster at sweeper, junior Takia Plummer, also plays a huge role in disrupting the opposing team’s offensive flow.
“Even our outside backs and our stopper too, they work so well with each other and they complement each other so well,” Brady said. “They have verbal and non-verbal communication and they read each other really well. It’s been very successful for us this season.”
The Tuckers had some openings for scoring chances, but could never maintain a consistent attack. Center Moriches finished with a 7-1 advantage on corner kicks.
Barbante said the game plan on offense was to try to draw the Red Devil’s sweeper out and sneak in behind her.
“We tried to man mark her and draw her out of the middle and play in behind her,” he said.
The Tuckers had a great chance in the first half when freshman Nikki Zurawski got a lane down the middle when she got past Plummer. But Glanzman was there to make the play.
“The keeper made a brilliant save,” Barbante said. “That’s one of those things if we score there, who knows what happens. The whole game may turn.”
Parlato added the insurance goal for Center Moriches in the 73rd minute, this time off an assist from sophomore Pamela Schenck.
Krauss, who assisted the first goal, was making her varsity debut. She spent the entire season on the junior varsity and came up to practice with the varsity this week. Brady liked what she saw so much, she put Krauss right into the starting lineup.
“She came in and just sky-rocketed in talent,” Brady said. “It’s been amazing. Right from JV to the starting lineup.”
Krauss was the first player for Center Moriches to make an impact in the playoffs as a JV call-up since Parlato four years ago, Brady said.
“I’m not afraid to try new things if it works,” Brady said.
Mattituck returns nearly all of its team next year minus a few key players. The biggest loss will be Liz Lasota, a four-year varsity player who became a huge scoring threat this season after playing mostly on defense in previous years. She scored a team-high 15 goals this season.
Barbante said he wouldn’t be surprised if Tuckers find themselves facing Center Moriches once again in the finals next year.
“It’s a good possibility,” he said.