TUCKERS 2, PANTHERS 1
If Anna Goerler was fearing a nightmare, it would have been understandable. The Mattituck defensive midfielder was hearing horror stories from teammate Nicole Zurawski about how good a player Babylon midfielder Shelby Fredericks is. Zurawski had played with Fredericks before and knew full well what Babylon’s all-county player was capable of doing on the soccer field.
“I was like, ‘Great,’ ” said Goerler, a senior whose job was to mark Fredericks, someone she had never played against before. “I did have some fear going into this game, but I shook it off once the clock started.”
Goerler’s assignment was simple, but anything but easy. She was to follow Fredericks like a personal bodyguard. Wherever the Babylon junior went on the field, Goerler was to be her shadow.
“My job was to not let her even get the ball,” Goerler said. “Don’t let her shoot, don’t let her turn, don’t let her do anything.”
Goerler was largely successful in Thursday’s Suffolk County League VI game at Mattituck High School. Fredericks, who had entered the game with seven goals and five assists, was held scoreless with only one shot in a 2-1 Mattituck victory. The lion’s share of the credit for that goes to Goerler, who also received some help from Sarah Pfennig and Kellie Stepnoski in keeping tabs on Fredericks.
Fredericks “basically not doing anything in the game was great, and it helped out everyone else,” Mattituck midfielder Nicole Murphy said. “I mean, their team is not just based around her, but she was a big part of their team and we shut her down.”
Others Tuckers did their part as well. Maryanne Fitzgerald assisted on both Mattituck goals (she also drew a yellow card for a tackle from behind). Lauren Guja scored the game-winning goal. Murphy put in the first goal of the game. Alex Berkoski was efficient on the front line, connecting 21 of 25 passes and getting 36 touches on the ball.
It added up to Mattituck’s fourth win in as many games.
Babylon, which took its first loss in five games, joined Rocky Point, Southold/Greenport and Mount Sinai as teams that have fallen to the Tuckers. The victory over Babylon, however, may have been the most impressive of Mattituck’s early-season results.
“Today was a test, and it measured us,” Goerler said. “It measured how much we wanted it and how much we are in this to win it.”
It was a scrappy Mattituck goal that put the Tuckers over the top. Fitzgerald, a senior midfielder, got a foot onto the ball before goalkeeper Hannah McGlinchey could reach it near the top of the Babylon goal area. She pushed a pass forward for Guja to slide in for her fourth goal of the season, snapping a 1-1 tie with 14 minutes 16 seconds left in the second half.
It was also Fitzgerald who supplied an accurate centering ball for Murphy to punch in her second goal of the season for a 1-0 Mattituck lead in the ninth minute.
“That was gorgeous,” said Mattituck’s new coach, Pete Hansen.
Goerler, a defender for her first three varsity seasons, became a defensive midfielder this year as part of Mattituck’s 3-5-2 formation. Hansen described her as a blue-collar player he could count on. “She just played great,” Hansen said. “She did exactly what I asked, and everybody else followed the game plan.”
Fredericks is a player of undeniable quality. Babylon coach Tim Harrison said Fredericks’ leadership and work rate stand out along with her skill. “She’s the type of player who makes the players around her better and demands the most from everybody,” he said. “She’s a game-changer.”
But Goerler was careful to contain Fredericks.
“I didn’t watch her feet, I watched the ball,” Goerler said. “I stayed in front of her and didn’t lunge and didn’t let her run past me.”
Even with all the attention Fredericks received from the Tuckers, she still made an imprint on the match. Babylon drew even thanks to Hallie Merz’s goal 5:46 before halftime. Part of that goal can be credited to the good work done by Fredericks, who delivered a cross from the right wing. After a deflection, the ball bounced Merz’s way, and she knew what to do with it.
Showing that she is not easily thwarted, Fredericks nearly equalized on her only shot of the game. After a teammate tapped a free kick her way, Fredericks nailed a 30-yard blast that lined over Stephanie Reisenberg’s goal with about 6:25 left to play.
“I thought we played great,” Murphy said. “We kept the ball on the ground. We played long when we had to, short when we had to. … It looked beautiful out there.”
After the game, Goerler wore the look of a player satisfied with her performance.
“I’m extremely happy with what I did,” she said. “Hansen has told me how good I did today, so I did my job.”