As a goalkeeper, he probably had to do more running than he wanted, but Steve Ostrowski still had a big smile on his face after Mattituck’s first session of preseason practice on Monday.
Ostrowski and his teammates woke up early on the last week of summer vacation to train at 7:30 a.m. at Mattituck High School, the first of 10 two-hour, two-a-day practices prior to the Suffolk County League VIII boys soccer season.
There were few complaints from Ostrowski, who will captain the team as one of two seniors on the squad; Oscar Puluc is the other senior.
“Just getting back with the guys and getting some touches on the ball,” he said. “The whole thing is great, other than the running.”
Ostrowski’s goals were simple and direct.
“Obviously, the short term is get a set lineup. You know what you’re doing,” he said. “Mid-term is like to get that first win. The first win is like the hardest thing. We actually lost our first game last year — and that was really tough. You start off with a record like 0-1. You want to start off with 1-0. Long-term goal is to get back, get back to where we were last year.”
Despite having only two seniors return from a team that reached the Class B state semifinals last fall, Mattituck is poised for another memorable season. The Tuckers have a young team, but it is a talented side that has loads of potential.
The Tuckers captured the Town of Brookhaven Summer League small schools title, which certainly can’t hurt, although they lost to the large schools champion, Central Islip, in the league’s overall final.
“I want them to build off the success from last year and the last couple of years,” coach Mat Litchhult said. “Our goal is to keep our tradition of winning the county championship. I want them to build off summer. I don’t want summer to go to their heads. I don’t want them to look back at summer and being like, ‘Oh, we played with Central Islip in the large school/small final. We only lost, 1-0. We should be fine in our league.’ That’s not the case. We’ve got to work hard. We’re going to play tough games. Center Moriches returns everybody from last year. Hampton Bays is going to be good. Southampton plays us hard all the time. You have to do the work. So today’s day one as much we had a great summer. And we can build off of it. Our end goal always is to see if we can win a county title.”
Litchhult, who addressed his team exactly at 7:30 a.m., is a realist. Even with a young team with loads of potential, he admitted he doesn’t know what to expect. He hoped to help the players grow and mould them into a cohesive unit.
“That’s the $100,000 question, whether we can do that,” he said. “I know we have the talent. Sometimes youth can be a good thing, sometimes youth can be a bad thing. I told them first thing. ‘Steve Ostrowski’s the senior. Let him step up and be a leader, but we need some guys behind [him]. I don’t care if you’re a junior. I don’t care if you’re a sophomore. Be vocal, step up, be a good player, lead by example.’
“Now, can they bridge the gap when we step onto the field against a Center Moriches? And when they step onto the field and be able to handle it and take their team? I know that they can play. I have seen them play in county championships the last couple of years as freshmen, as sophomores. I know they can handle the competition. Can they handle that when it’s their team? That’s the question. They have a senior. He’s going to lead. But we need everybody to take advantage, take that team and make it theirs.”
The players trained on what will be the junior varsity soccer team’s field. The girls team, which also held its first practice Monday, worked out on the lacrosse field. The soccer field, which will be used for games, was not utilized. It is, more or less, sacred ground.
After he addressed the team, Litchhult had the players do some stretching, running and kicking the ball around in the early minutes.
“First day you just never know what to expect,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve done it for. I thought overall it was a solid first session. I know some of our boys had a tough weekend. They played three or four games with their club teams. Did I go overboard and kill them physically? No. I’m glad to see them here. I’m glad to get the team back together to get some touches on the ball, get a little bit of fitness.”