The unofficial mantra for the Mattituck boys soccer team at Diamond in the Pines in Coram on Monday night went something like this: Better now than in November.
Better to lose in the small schools championship game of the Town of Brookhaven Summer League on Aug. 4 than to lose in the Suffolk County Class B final on the very same field on Nov. 1.
Yet the final result, a 2-1 overtime loss to Miller Place, still stung because the Tuckers surrendered a late lead before allowing the game-winner in overtime.
“I’d rather have it happen during the summer than in the season because I consider this field our home,” goalkeeper Ben Knowles said.
That’s because Tuckers have won the last three Suffolk Class B crowns there and hope to make it four straight.
Like it or not, they followed a similar script as they did in their three defeats in 2013: Mattituck failed to convert numerous scoring opportunities and fell in overtime.
“It’s disappointing every time you lose a game where you lose the lead,” the summer team coach, Bill Hayes, said. “I thought we were the better team. It didn’t necessarily work out for us. The two goals that they scored were mirror images of each other [in] that there were defensive breakdowns. That can be fixed. It would have been nice for them to win a championship today, but it wasn’t in the cards.”
Ryan Foster had given Mattituck a 1-0 advantage with 6 minutes 43 seconds remaining in the opening half, volleying home a right-wing cross from Kaan Ilgin for his first competitive goal. “He actually came out of nowhere,” the Mattituck High School coach, Mat Litchhult, said. “I really thought he was going to try to get a head to it.”
Several missed Mattituck chances later, Miller Place’s Derek Bayer equalized on a sliding shot off a left-wing cross with 8:12 left in regulation time.
Only 43 seconds into the first sudden-death OT period, Ryan Sousa scored the game-winner on a breakaway.
“I was trying to block the near post a little too much,” Knowles said. I left the far side of it a little bit open. I got a fingertip on it but it wasn’t enough.”
Instead of lamenting the loss, Hayes, who will be the assistant coach in the fall, saw several silver linings. He noted that the Tuckers (9-2-2) got plenty of games out of the competition and found some more depth.
He added that several players blossomed or impressed. Sophomore midfielder Chris Waggoner scored 5 goals to finish as the team’s third-highest goal scorer. Brian Doherty set up 6 goals. “And they’re all good assists, which is the kind of play we’re trying to get out of him,” Hayes said.
Defender Andrew Cushman more than held his own during his midfield stints. And James Hayes, not much of a scorer in the past, finished with a team-high 7 goals.
“There were a lot of positives to take away,” Bill Hayes said. “The fact we didn’t win was immaterial.”
Defender and co-captain Paul Hayes felt the sting of the result should give the Tuckers an edge early in the season.
“We ended off on a loss in school ball, which is not always good,” he said of the OT defeat to Carle Place in the Long Island championship game. “Last year we had an amazing [summer] season and we ended up on a loss to Central Islip here. We’re definitely going to come back hungry and anxious to play.”
The Tuckers’ next competitive encounter is a Sept. 3 scrimmage against Southold.
“Everyone should be hungry,” Paul Hayes said. “We should be amped for that game. It’s a pre-season game. We should go out and win. After this loss, everyone’s just [peeved] and wants to get back that win.”