There were several reasons why Tuckers goalkeeper Ben Knowles had tears in his eyes Sunday night.
First and foremost, his Mattituck boys soccer team had clinched the third state title in school history earlier in the day. Secondly, the team bus was escorted by local police and fire department personnel from the town line to Mattituck High School. The soccer players were also greeted by community members as Queen’s “We are the Champions” blasted outside the school.
As the cheers, music and group photo requests subsided, Knowles, holding the championship plaque, became emotional as he reflected on the evening.
“It’s incredible,” Knowles said as he fought back tears. “As a senior, this is my last year being here with all of these guys and it’s the last time I’m going to be playing with them. It’s just incredible to come home with a final victory.”
Mattituck soccer coach Mat Litchhult kissed his newborn son before addressing the crowd.
“We haven’t lost since he was born,” Litchhult said. “This is the best team that’s ever been through Mattituck.”
Litchhult said the community’s support, including school board president Jerry Diffley providing championship T-shirts for the players, made Sunday’s win not just a Mattituck soccer victory, but a “Mattituck community victory.”
“I tried to do my best at times to keep their minds set on the ultimate goal and that’s this feeling right now,” the coach said.
The players were also greeted by the teams’ colors of blue and gold in the form of balloons and streamers on display at the school.
Parent Tricia Almberg said she raced back from the game to purchase decoration supplies and adorned the front of the building prior to the team’s arrival.
Ms. Almberg said she was at Sunday’s game and her favorite part was when her son, 17-year-old Connor Almberg, took the field.
“I was happy he was on the field when they won,” she said. “As a mother, I’m proud he stuck with it, even though he wasn’t the best on the team.”
Connor’s girlfriend, Tricia Dorneister, 19, described Sunday’s win as thrilling.
“There were a lot of hugs and smiles,” she said as she put up streamers. “They worked so hard. They deserve it for sure.”