As the new girls soccer coach at Mattituck High School, Rafael Morais has a familiar goal — to win the Suffolk County Class B title.
As someone who has college coaching experience, Morais also has a more imposing goal — to prepare his players for their next big challenge in life.
“They are in the age that in a year or two from now they’re going to be in college and I think my experience, coaching in college, I know what the coaches out there expect from them,” he said after the Tuckers’ first practice Monday morning. “So I’m going to try to push them hard so when they get to college they’ll already know what is coming, that it’s not going to be a shock for them. So I’m going to be coaching them like a college coach.”
Morais, 35, succeeds Malynda Nichol, who directed the team for three seasons before moving onto another job. He guided the Briarcliffe College men’s team to a pair of United States College Athletic Association championships (winning national coach of the year honors twice), and founded and coached the school’s women’s program at the same time. Most recently, he directed the Pennsylvania College of Technology men in 2014 and the Suffolk County Community College women last fall. The LIU Post graduate also coached the Puerto Rico women’s national team in 2010.
This Brazilian-born Morais moved to Greenport, trained players at the North Fork United Soccer Club and read about the job opening. Eric McKenna, a social studies teacher at Mattituck High School and a coach with the club, talked to Morais about the position and brought his resume to athletic director Gregg Wormuth.
“Rafael was an interesting find for us,” said Wormuth, who was impressed with Morais in their first meeting. “I thought he was a very interesting guy. From the moment that I had talked to him I knew he was very knowledgeable and passionate about the sport of soccer.
“I think he’s going to be a great addition to our stuff, for sure. … We’re very excited to see what he can do this year. He has the resume. Obviously, I’m impressed with what he’s done so far.”
During the summer Morais got to know some players with unofficial, light practices. Thirty players trained Monday, Morais said.
The session, held in the infield of the track, was for real as it was more for fitness than actual soccer. It was not an easy two hours.
“He’s tough,” senior defender Corinne Reda said. “He has high expectations, but I think we can rise to them.”
High expectations, indeed.
Last season the Tuckers (7-8-1) were eliminated by Center Moriches in the county Class B semifinals, 4-1. Morais is enthusiastic about his team’s chances in League VII this season.
“We’re going to go all the way,” he said. “I know about Mattituck, coached a lot of players from this town. I know the soccer coaches here [have been] always good. It’s not like we have a lot of work to do. We just got to train them a little bit.
“To be honest, this is the only title I don’t have as a coach. I won two nationals as a college coach. I never won a state high school. This is my first high school job anyway. So that’s what I’m going for. I’m going to push them hard and try to go all the way.”
The players hope that will translate into success.
“Hopefully he can lead us to some victories because last season was a little bumpy,” Reda said. “We’ll get over it.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s new coach, Rafael Morais, hopes to point the Tuckers to a championship season. (Credit: Garret Meade)