CLASS B LONG ISLAND FINALS | TUCKERS 1, FROGS 0 (2 OT)
Stephen Urwand spotted his teammates coming for him out of the corner of his eye. Two Mattituck players raced toward Urwand with a water jug in tow, hoping to drench the hero of Monday’s Class B Long Island championship game.
Urwand darted away, proving too elusive.
Finally, a teammate got him with a water bottle as Urwand soaked in the moment.
Minutes earlier, the Mattituck senior drilled in the biggest goal of his career, lifting the Tuckers to a hard-earned 1-0 victory in double overtime against Nassau champ Carle Place at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale. On a windy afternoon in a game the Tuckers controlled for long stretches, Urwand stamped the Tuckers as Long Island champs for the first time since 2010 after 99 minutes of action.
“You saw your opportunity and you realize there are not that many that come,” Urwand said. “It was a long game and you really don’t think at that point. You just act on instincts.”
Instincts proved to be valuable.
Urwand positioned himself in front of the back post as sophomore forward Mario Arreola made a play on the ball in front of the goal. Arreola, in a jaw-dropping play, whipped a bicycle kick, launching the ball to Urwand. He threw his foot at the ball, directing it right into the back of the goal for a bang-bang play.
The pass from Arreola was nothing new, Urwand said.
“In practice he’s doing that stuff all the time,” he said. “It was a great ball from Mario. I’m so thankful for it.”
“It’s just the way I play,” Arreola added. “Practice pays off.”
The goal came four minutes into the second overtime period as the game inched toward potentially being decided by penalty kicks. It was something the Tuckers hoped to avoid.
And as the second overtime unfolded, the sense of urgency increased.
Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said the game-winning goal was somewhat of a “lucky play,” but it was centered on players being in the right position.
“We talk about where we want to put the ball and it was at the back post,” Litchhult said. “And we talk about Urwand trying to cheat on the opposite side and he was there.”
Arreola said he wasn’t necessarily trying to score, but just make a play.
“I did cry because I was so happy,” he said.
The Tuckers (15-3-1) won’t have long to celebrate. Because of the condensed schedule, the Tuckers return to the field tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Diamond in the Pines to play in a regional final for a chance to advance to the state final four.
The Tuckers will face Section IX winner Spackenkill, which will be the more rested team after last playing Saturday. The winner plays unbeaten Livonia, the top-ranked Class B team in the state, in the state semifinals Nov. 17.
Mattituck opened the game with the wind at their back. The Frogs elected to have the win for the second half. The Frogs also played the first 15-minute overtime with the wind at their back.
It forced the Tuckers to defend 55 straight minutes with the Frogs having the wind to their advantage.
Still, the Tuckers’ defense kept the Frogs (10-5-2) scoreless for the first time since Sept. 8. The Frogs had scored at least two goals in every game since Sept. 13, when they defeated Wheatley 1-0.
“I thought our defensive line played excellent,” Litchhult said.
Senior Tyler Connell stepped in to play left back, a position he normally doesn’t play, because the Tuckers were missing Walter Jacob, who had to sit out after getting a red card Saturday against Center Moriches.
Senior Ryan Finger and sophomore Paul Hayes anchored the defense at center back with senior Evan Neighley on the right side.
“Everything I heard about Carle Place was they can score goals,” Litchhult said. “To keep them shutout through 80 minutes and then 15 minutes of overtime is a pretty big feat for the back four and [goalkeeper] Stephen Ostrowski.”
The Frogs had a few good chances, but struggled to make the long passes on runs up the field.
The best chance for Carle Place came with about 35 minutes left in the second half. Matt Carr drilled a long ball on a free kick that Adam Cabrera got a head on. The ball hit off the right post and bounced back into play.
“Their one off the post was big, thankfully,” Litchhult said.
Both teams struggled to get shots from deep on goal, the wind a likely factor. Litchhult said he told his players to stick their style of play by keeping the ball on the ground and playing to feet.
When the wind was in their face, it forced the Tuckers to play smarter.
“Sometimes the team gets a little false sense of security with the wind at their back,” Litchhult said. “If you kick the ball too far or too hard when you have the wind at your back, it’s just going to run out of bounds, and we did that a little too much in the first half.”
After losing in the Long Island finals last season to a superior Wheatley team, the Tuckers were focused this season on getting back to the championship game.
“As a junior last year you saw your seniors just drop as soon as the game was over,” Urwand said. “That’s when it hit me, next year, that could be me. When you’re in that position, you think I’m not letting that happen.”