In the midst of chasing Suffolk County League VII leader Babylon, both the Southold/Greenport and Mattituck girls soccer teams shared a more immediate concern on Tuesday: each other.
This one had a big-game feel all over it. Aside from its implications for the league title chase, it was a rivalry game for the North Fork neighbors and, for Mattituck, Senior Day.
That last part may have made more of a difference than one would think. The Tuckers played hard for their seven seniors, who were recognized and presented with flowers in a pregame ceremony. Then Mattituck went out and won for them, 3-2, withstanding a late charge by Southold. The victory was almost as sweet as the cupcakes the Tuckers were treated to after their final home regular-season game.
“Coming in I was like so pumped and ready to go because I knew how big of a game it was, not only just to beat Southold, but for all of our seniors because they are such a big part of our team,” said Claire Gatz, a sophomore forward/center midfielder who brought Mattituck a goal and an assist, as did Alex Beebe, one of the seniors.
It was the eighth straight win for Mattituck (10-2, 10-2) since a 3-0 loss to Babylon. Southold (9-2, 9-2) saw a five-game win streak snapped with its first loss since a 6-3 defeat to (who else?) Babyon. Babylon (11-0, 11-0) was a 6-0 winner at home against Bishop McGann-Mercy on Tuesday.
“We had a lot of issues that we had to hammer out earlier in the season and you’re starting to see more of, I guess, what we’re capable of doing, and we’re definitely capable of more,” said Stephen LiRosi, Mattituck’s third coach in as many years.
Mattituck almost saw a 3-0 lead evaporate as Jill Golden struck for two goals (her 21st and 22nd of the season) in the final 5 minutes, 13 seconds to make things uncomfortable for the Tuckers. The junior forward latched onto a pass from Grace Syron, wound up and ripped in a shot for her second goal with 1:44 left.
“It got a little nerve-racking,” said Gatz, whose team avenged a 1-0 loss to Southold on Sept. 7.
Mackenzie Daly gave Mattituck a 1-0 lead with 23.9 seconds to go in the first half. A cross into the penalty area was knocked down by Saira Bachez (seven saves), filling in for Southold’s injured first-string goalkeeper, Hayley Brigham. The ball popped out to Daly who poked it in.
Moments earlier, Mattituck nearly opened the scoring when a Chelsea Marlborough free kick from some 40 yards out glanced off Bachez’s hands and the right goalpost before the freshman goalie collected the ball.
Mattituck scored again just 99 seconds into the second half. Gatz, advancing down the right flank, found Beebe in the middle and Beebe found the low left corner.
The Tuckers appeared to have sealed the result 7:57 later when Beebe returned the favor, setting up Gatz after a long free kick from Marlborough.
“We’re a much more offensive team,” Southold coach Chris Golden said. “We like to go forward. Does that lend itself to being caught vulnerable in the back? Absolutely. Without a doubt, Mattituck did it to us. They caught us for goal two and three.”
Jill Golden, the coach’s daughter, gave Mattituck something to think about with her first goal. Hannah Sutton played the ball over the top to Golden. She remained onside, essentially passed to herself in getting by a defender, dribbled in and slotted the ball in with her left foot.
“I’ve played games where we’ve had extreme comebacks, so I never give up until the last whistle,” said Jill Golden.
It was the fifth of seven games in an 11-day span for Southold. “For us this is just one more game in a long grind of a stretch,” Chris Golden said. “It has no bearing on where we’re going to be at the end of the season.”
Southold and Mattituck each have an upcoming game in Babylon. Southold will play there Oct. 11 and Mattituck will see the Panthers on Thursday.
“Can they be caught?” LiRosi said of the Panthers. “I’m not concerned about whether or not we catch them, I just want to win every game that we have from this point out … I don’t want to lose again, so that’s the mantra.”
Photo caption: Southold/Greenport’s Jill Golden finds herself flanked by Mattituck’s Brianna Fox (10) and Maddie Schmidt (6) during Tuesday’s game. (Credit: Bob Liepa)