Navigating the Suffolk County Class C girls lacrosse playoffs this year is like walking through a minefield. One misstep and — ka-boom!
Just look at that field: Bayport-Blue Point. Mount Sinai. Shoreham-Wading River. Mattituck/Greenport/Southold. Babylon.
One might be tempted to say that any of them could beat any other on a given day if not for the fact that top-seeded Bayport (16-0) has yet to lose this year.
It’s safe to say this: The road to the Suffolk Class C championship will not be easy.
Mattituck coach Matt Maloney said this may be the toughest Class C playoff group he has ever seen. Not only that, but he believes it is tougher than Class B, and perhaps even Class A.
“Class C is ridiculous,” Maloney said last week.
The five Class C teams were reduced to four Thursday with Babylon’s exit from the postseason, and now Mattituck has a rematch with mighty Bayport in a semifinal on Tuesday.
That is No. 4 Mattituck’s reward for its 11-2 trouncing of No. 5 Babylon in an outbracket game at Mattituck High School. When the final horn sounded, the Tuckers rushed toward goalie Emily Perry to celebrate the conclusion of Step 1 in their quest for what would be their first county title.
Mattituck (12-4) was impressive, turning in a complete game. The ball movement was fluid. The ride was relentless.
“Oh, it was fun,” said midfielder Chelsea Marlborough.
And, oh yeah, Katie Hoeg reached another milestone. One game after scoring her 500th career point, the senior pumped in five goals, giving her 300 for her six-year varsity career and 55 for the season, along with 57 assists. The North Carolina-bound talent now has 507 career points.
Hoeg’s 300th goal came on a solo effort for the game’s final score with 1 minute 55 seconds to go.
Hoeg also assisted on a goal by Jane DiGregorio and won nine of 13 draws.
Her younger sister, eighth-grader Mackenzie Hoeg, turned in quite a game herself, registering three goals, two assists and a game-high five ground balls.
Also scoring for Mattituck were Audrey Hoeg, who also had a pair of assists, and Francesca Vasile-Cozzo. Riley Hoeg had two assists.
Claudio Hoeg, who was replaced in Mattituck’s goal by Perry with a little over six minutes left to play, made some nice saves early on as the Tuckers took control of the game, building a 7-0 lead by halftime.
The game was unlike Mattituck’s second game of the season when it edged Babylon, 10-8.
“Our team came out to play … and we played great,” said Mackenzie Hoeg.
Babylon (12-5) didn’t get on the scoreboard until Amanda Guerra struck off a feed from Shayne Antolini 1:39 into the second half. Guerra also had Babylon’s second goal, scoring off a rebound from her own shot.
Now the question is, can Mattituck, winner of seven of its last eight games, beat Bayport in Bayport?
“No one has beat them yet,” Maloney said. “We will do everything we can to try.”
Audrey Hoeg knows that Bayport presents a challenge. After Bayport defeated Mattituck, 14-7, on the final day of the regular season, she said: “They’re no joke. Yeah, they’re definitely different than any team we’ve seen this year. They’re super aggressive on their ride. They don’t give up.”
And yet, the Tuckers haven’t given up hope.
“I still think we’re at the level where we can compete with these teams,” Marlborough said. “It’s anyone’s game any day. We just have to step up with the same energy we had today.”
Photo caption: Mattituck/Greenport/Southold eighth-grader Mackenzie Hoeg, who had three goals, two assists and five ground balls, takes on Babylon’s Megan Nerney. (Credit: Garret Meade)