Now that the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold high school boys lacrosse team is back on the big stage, coach John Amato doesn’t want the Tuckers to get stage fright.
Last year’s experience should help. Mattituck reached the Suffolk County Class C final for the first time in 2015 and lost to Babylon at Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
On Wednesday, the Tuckers know what to expect when they set foot on Stony Brook’s field turf for their second straight county final.
“It’s hot,” offensive midfielder Matt Mauceri said. “It’s louder and you just have that sense of win or go home.”
Second-seeded Mattituck (12-4) will face the same opponent, No. 1 Babylon (12-4). Only this time, the Tuckers are looking for a different result.
“A big part of the discussion today was going to be how we’ve been there before,” coach John Amato said during Tuesday’s practice at Cutchogue East Elementary School. “We know what to expect. It’s not like we’re going in blind. We know what it takes.”
The teams split their regular-season meetings, each winning on their home field, Babylon by 10-4 on March 30 and Mattituck by 8-7 on April 21.
Mattituck advanced to the county final by virtue of an 11-10 thriller over Center Moriches on May 24. It was the team’s eighth straight win. Babylon has won its past six games.
“They are a good match for us,” defender Cullum Glenn said. “They’ll give us a run for our money.”
Amato said it will be critical for Mattituck’s defense, built around Tristin Ireland, Gage Suglia and Glenn, to take Babylon out of its rhythm. Rob Kruszeski, who has played well in goal, will look to make outlet passes to defensive midfielders Zach Holmes, Pete Fouchet and Lucas Webb when the Tuckers transition to offense.
“I want the boys to be relaxed,” Amato said. “I want them to be themselves, you know, and enjoy it. At the same time, go there with a purpose. I think we can get the job done.”
So does Glenn. “I feel like we’re ready,” he said. “I feel like we just need to come out hot in the first quarter and just keep that tempo for the whole game.”
Amato wants the Tuckers to experience what he did when he played for NCAA Division II champion Dowling College in 2012. “I’ve always wanted them to have that feeling of winning it,” he said.
Mauceri said he has indulged in the luxury of thinking about what it would be like to win a county championship, the first in the team’s history.
“I’ve had that dream where, you know, you win,” he said. “It’s like, wow, no one has ever done this for our school. It would be something else.”
Now, raise the curtain.
Photo caption: Freshman attack Max Kruszeski and his Mattituck/Greenport/Southold teammates return to Stony Brook University for a second straight county final against Babylon. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)