For the first time in a long time, there was a new look and feel to the Mattituck High School boys soccer team’s first practice of the season Monday morning.
Because workers were putting the finishing touches on the new track at the school, the Tuckers’ training session was held at the soccer fields on Aldrich Lane in Laurel where the Mattituck Soccer Club typically plays.
They had the complex to themselves. There were no distractions on what was a beautiful, sunny August morning.
Coach Mat Litchhult wants his team to be focused this season. With virtually every field player returning as seniors, the Tuckers are favored to win the Suffolk County League VII title and certainly have some high aspirations beyond that.They are aiming for a rare five-peat in the Suffolk County Class B Tournament and some glory beyond that competition.
“It was definitely a different day being down here,” Litchhult said, noting that some players showed up late because they mistakenly went to the high school. Practice started at 8 a.m.
“It’s definitely something new where we are right now, not on day one, training-wise,” he said. “With these guys being seniors and being here basically four years with me, we’re already on day 20. Fitness has got to come up, but training-wise and what we’re doing already are things that we’ll do during the season.”
In other words, besides running and fitness exercise, the players got an opportunity to play with the ball more than usual at the first practice, which included attacking and shooting drills. The Tuckers usually start with defensive drills.
“We’re deeper into that, which is good, which means we’ll get to things more and I’ll think we’ll be prepared for our scrimmage and our first game, but more than we usually are,” Litchhult said. “Usually it’s about getting touches on the ball and getting back. We did a little bit of that, but got right into possession and right into going for the goal already. That was the first time we went to goal and shooting at the first practice of the season ever since I’ve been coach.”
The two-hour morning session was more than vigorous enough. The team came back for another two-hour session at 5 p.m.
“It was the first of many to come,” captain Paul Hayes said. “I hope everyone is not beat up already. I would say most of the starters are in shape.”
Forward Joe Tardif, who punctuated the final offensive drill with a pretty goal, enjoyed himself.
“It was good. It was fun. Glad to be out here with the guys,” he said. “We’re all still working together. We didn’t lose any chemistry.”
Needless to say, the Tuckers have some high aspirations this season.
Hayes is envisioning the county Class B championship game, scheduled for the Diamond in the Pines in Coram on Nov. 1.
“I personally want to take every game step by step,” he said. “It’s a new challenge. We just can’t overlook teams. We’ve just got to play with intensity, play our game. Personally, my main goal is to get that fifth county championship. It would be awesome. Last year so far was my favorite county championship, everyone dogpiling in the middle of the field. I want to dogpile again in the middle of the field.”
Litchhult wants that and more.
“We want to start with a league title,” he said. “We want to win our fifth county championship in a row and we would like to go upstate and take the whole thing. We’re a deep team that’s been around. Teams probably will know about us. They’ll be prepared. If we don’t set our goals that high then we’re probably selling ourselves a little short.”
Attendance at the practice came up a little short. The Tuckers did not know the exact availability of senior forward Mario Arreola, a vital part of last year’s championship team. He was a no-show.
“We’re still trying to work that situation out. I don’t know. I’m not sure,” Litchhult said. “He had work this morning. He’s always helping his family out a lot. … We’re always willing to work with him. We have to see how everything goes.”