Abby Graeb holds an advantage over many soccer players. She can think like a striker, and a goalkeeper.
The reason for that is simple. The Mattituck High School junior has played both positions extensively, although she has been used as a field player by the Tuckers since last fall.
Straddling two different soccer worlds may seem odd to some, but not to Graeb. She has flip-flopped between the positions over the years, and is as adept at scoring goals as preventing them.
Recollecting her earlier goalkeeping days, Graeb said, “Sometimes I loved it and sometimes I hated it.”
Graeb played goal for the Sound Beach travel team for a while. In school soccer, two years ago she was brought up to the junior varsity team as an eighth-grade goalkeeper.
Mattituck didn’t have a junior varsity team last year. The varsity Tuckers already had three upperclassmen goalies, and the team’s former coach, Pete Hansen, considered Graeb more valuable in the field.
Graeb said she likes the freedom of being a striker. “I like the field a little better now,” she said.
One might expect that Mattituck’s new coach, Melinda Nichol, will find a place for Graeb this fall. Judging by the way Graeb played on Tuesday night, she will almost surely have to be given serious consideration for playing time. Graeb scored both goals in the opening 13 minutes as Mattituck concluded its Town of Brookhaven Summer League season on a winning note, 2-0 over Mount Sinai at Diamond in the Pines in Coram. The game, which started 47 minutes later than scheduled because of rain and lightning, was limited to one 30-minute half.
For the Tuckers (2-5-2), it was a good 30 minutes. The two goals were almost identical.
Hannah Fitzgerald, a sophomore center midfielder, deserves a good deal of the credit for the first goal. It was her lead pass that sent Graeb, with a defender at her heels, in on goalkeeper Alicia Pirone. Graeb scored.
“She’s known for doing that,” said Fitzgerald.
Junior sweeper Nicole Zurawski assisted on the second strike in similar fashion, knocking a long, cutting through ball up the middle for Graeb to latch onto before directing it into the corner of the goal. It was the fourth goal of the summer for Graeb.
“I’m always looking for runs, looking for space,” she said.
With Graeb’s speed and finishing ability, sending the ball over the top for her to chase down is a good option.
“We love our through balls because we want to get it to Abby,” Mattituck’s summer coach, Veronica Stelzer, said. “We know she’s going to beat the last defender.”
Stelzer said the summer season was “bittersweet” for the Tuckers. She said, “We’re not in the playoffs, which is a bummer, but we improved as a team, so I guess that’s all I can ask for.”