SUFFOLK CLASS B SEMIFINAL | TUCKERS 3, MARINERS 2
There’s a reason why he has been nicknamed Super Mario, and Mario Arreola demonstrated why in the final 20 minutes of Mattituck’s exciting comeback win over Southampton on Wednesday.
Arreola took the game into his own hands, actually his feet, as the senior forward struck for the equalizer midway through the second half and the game-winner with 5 minutes 28 seconds left to rally the Tuckers to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Southampton in a Suffolk County Class B boys soccer semifinal in Mattituck.
“That’s the Mario we’ve known from the summer,” Mattituck goalkeeper and co-captain Steven Ostrowski said of Arreola, whose 17 goals helped Mattituck to the Town of Brookhaven small schools summer league title. “I knew he was going to come out sooner or later. I knew he was going to put us on his back.”
And back into the Suffolk Class B final for the fourth consecutive year. The three-time defending county champion Tuckers will meet Center Moriches, a 2-1 winner over Hampton Bays, at Diamond in the Pines in Coram at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“It was a fantastic game. They guy showed a lot of grit, showed a lot of heart,” Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said. “It’s the first time we faced a lot of adversity this year, giving up a goal early. We’ve lost two games in double overtime. When you’re in double overtime, you get scored on and the game’s over. This was the first time we were down in a game all season long. It always made me a little nervous.”
But the Tuckers (14-2) found a way.
“That is the definition of Mattituck soccer,” Ostrowski said. “We will come through anything. They put us through hell. That’s what you have to face when you play a team three times. You know them and they know you. You beat them twice and they know how you beat them and they can work on that. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. And that’s an understatement.”
The Mariners (10-6-1) pressured the hosts from the opening kickoff, winning 50-50 balls and marking their foes closely. They grabbed a 2-1 halftime lead on goals by Gianluca Santacruz (12th minute) and Jesse Scanlon (34th), sandwiched around the one by Tuckers forward Kaan Ilgin (32nd).
“Our halftime speech was that we wanted to win the second half two-nil,” Litchhult said. “There was a lot of game to play.”
It took a while before the Tuckers solved goalkeeper Garrett Pike and Arreola took center stage.
“The first 60 minutes I was testing my groin,” Arreola said. “The last 20 minutes I just turned it on. I guess it’s getting better.”
First, on a give-and-go with Joe Tardif, Arreola bolted down the right flank, turned inside and powered home a 10-yard shot.
The equalizing pass actually came off the right shoe of midfielder Kevin Diffley, which Tardif was forced to wear because he had torn his right cleat in practice, and did not have another.
“They were the same brand as mine. So I ended it up putting that one on,” he said. “Hey, it worked.”
Arreola played like a player possessed. Central defender Patrick Hayes, who cleared a ball off the goal line two minutes before the equalizer, had his header saved in the 63rd minute. Arreola sent a header wide right a minute later and his shot from the right side sailed wide left in the 65th minute.
Arreola was only warming up. Right fullback Erik Schwartz sent a long ball down the right flank to the striker, who chipped Pike to the far post for a 3-2 advantage to complete the comeback in the 75th minute.
“Great pass, great finish,” Litchhult said. “The last goal was Mario from the summer. Something went on. There was a switch there. I’ve been trying to get that switch on a little earlier throughout the year.”
Immediately after the game Mattituck coach MAT LITCHHULT did not know if junior central midfielder KEVIN WILLIAMS would be available Saturday. Williams suffered a possible broken left arm in the 48th minute. He was to be operated on Wednesday.
“We’re hoping for the best-case scenario that he gets to wrap it up,” Litchhult said, “but we don’t know. It’s too early to tell.”