08/28/13 2:30pm
08/28/2013 2:30 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kaan Ilgin during a conditioning drill at Mattituck's first practice on Monday.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kaan Ilgin during a conditioning drill at Mattituck’s first practice on Monday.

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.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Joe Tardif and the rest of the Mattituck players began preparations to navigate themselves through a new season.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Joe Tardif and the rest of the Mattituck players began preparations to navigate themselves through a new season.

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.”

08/08/13 12:55am
08/08/2013 12:55 AM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck goalkeeper Steve Ostrowski watching action in his penalty area.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck goalkeeper Steve Ostrowski watching action in his penalty area.

The Town of Brookhaven Summer League small schools champion Mattituck boys soccer team didn’t seem overly concerned about the prospect of playing the league’s large schools champion, Central Islip, on Wednesday night. After all, the Tuckers are accustomed to playing against teams from larger schools. What the Tuckers may have found disconcerting, however, was Central Islip’s lethal speed and skill.

That is a dangerous combination.

“That’s as good a team as we’re ever going to play,” Mattituck’s summer team coach, Will Hayes, said. “They were excellent. Every player they put on the field, every kid they took off the bench was good.” To add emphasis, he repeated, “That was a good team.”

So good that the 1-0 scoreline in Central Islip’s favor doesn’t do the Musketeers justice. Only resolute defending by the Tuckers and capable goalkeeping by Steve Ostrowski kept it close.

The Tuckers were under no illusions. They recognized the task that lay before them in the game for the league’s overall championship.

“We knew we had to defend,” said Hayes.

So the Tuckers defended and looked to counterattack when they could.

The strategy worked for the first 49 minutes 41 seconds of the 60-minute game, before Central Islip gained its well-deserved reward through a penalty kick. Ever Manzanares was fouled in the penalty area and Robenson Jasmin, the game’s most valuable player, directed the spot kick into the net for the game’s only goal.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Central Islip's Osman Portillo Jr., left, and Mattituck's Paul Hayes pursuing the ball.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Central Islip’s Osman Portillo Jr., left, and Mattituck’s Paul Hayes pursuing the ball.

Central Islip, in only its second year in the 33-year-old summer league, earned  the right to play the Town of Babylon champion tomorrow night at St. Joseph’s College.

Mattituck won the overall summer league championship once, in 1999. That speaks to the difficulty of advancing that far.

Of course, the Tuckers would have needed to get by Central Islip in order to do that, and that proved to be a problem. Central Islip did something that not many teams do to Mattituck. It essentially boxed the Tuckers in their own half of the field at Diamond in the Pines in Coram for much of the time and applied a great deal of pressure on Mattituck’s defense.

“That was probably one of the best teams I ever played against, travel or school,” Ostrowski said. “They just orchestrated every pass. They didn’t put any of their free kicks long. They really knew what they were doing.’

Central Islip was denied a goal in the 34th minute when Ostrowski made a snazzy diving save of a shot by Jorge Magana, catching the ball and not leaving a rebound.

The Musketeers missed a couple of good scoring chances in the second half as well: Magana’s side volley was directed right at Ostrowski in the 40th minute. Eight minutes later, Magana nearly had a clear shot at goal, but it was deflected by a defender at the last moment for a corner kick.

Central Islip outshot Mattituck, 13-4, but the Tuckers had a couple of opportunities themselves. Mario Arreola, who has scored 17 goals in 13 games this summer, exhibited his splendid speed on a memorable sequence almost five minutes into the second half. He somehow managed to catch up with a midfield ball that looked as if it would roll out of bounds. Arreola then pushed the ball forward down the left wing and beat a defender to it before curling a shot beyond the right goalpost.

“I didn’t know it was possible, but I think he has gotten faster,” said Mattituck’s school team coach, Mat Litchhult.

Arreola was also involved in Mattituck’s only other serious attempt at goal He latched onto an incisive through ball from James Hayes in the 44th minute, only to see his right-footed effort stopped by Rene Melgar for one of his two saves.

“These guys … took the game plan and put it in place and played it to perfection,” Litchhult said. “That was a great team. We almost stole it.”

Mattituck was missing three players who probably would have started: Kaan Ilgin, Jake Jacob and Oscar Puluc. Ostrowski was the only senior on the field for the young Tuckers.

It was a productive and encouraging summer season for Mattituck, which won 10 games and lost three, outscoring opponents by 35-17. The Tuckers finished second to Center Moriches on goal difference in the regular-season standings.

After losing two of its first three games, Mattituck won nine straight during a stretch.

“It was a roller coaster,” Ostrowski said. “In the beginning, we didn’t know how we were going to do. We had two not-so-great games against Center Moriches and Shoreham, and then Litch just gave us a speech, and I guess we just snapped out of it, and we started playing really well. We strung a couple of wins together and we just got here. It’s an awesome experience.”

The Tuckers seemed happy with the T-shirts they were awarded after the game along with their small schools title plaque. With the school team’s first preseason practice scheduled for Aug. 26, they gave themselves something of a head start on preseason training and a healthy dose of good feeling.

“We lost 1-nothing on a penalty kick,” Litchhult said. “There’s nothing really to look back on and be disappointed about.”

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08/05/13 11:39pm
08/05/2013 11:39 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's James Hayes in an aerial duel with Elwood/Jophn Glenn's James Groark.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck’s James Hayes in an aerial duel with Elwood/John Glenn’s James Groark.

Diamond in the Pines in Coram never will be confused with Wembley in England, Maracana Stadium in Rio or even Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. But the sports complex has become a must destination site for some of the best Suffolk County soccer teams come the fall.

And that includes the Mattituck High School boys’ soccer side. The Tuckers, who spent a good portion of the summer playing at the facility, hope to return to it for the Suffolk Class B final on Nov. 2.

This year’s version of the team already has some vital experience winning a big game on the artificial turf, earning the Town of Brookhaven Summer League small schools title behind a 3-2 triumph over Elwood/John Glenn on Monday.

Winning the summer league obviously isn’t as big as the county crown, but it certainly will get the Tuckers into the right frame of mind.

“It’s huge,” goalkeeper Steve Ostrowski said. “I don’t remember the last time Mattituck did this. My brother [Peter, a center back] two years ago, they got pretty close and they lost on penalty kicks, so this is huge for me. It’s just really exciting.”

And it will be more exciting come November.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Paul Hayes and his Mattituck teammates are Brookhaven Summer League small school champions.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Paul Hayes and his Mattituck teammates are Brookhaven Summer League small school champions.

“It’s always great to be back here,” Ostrowski said. “It’s just the feeling knowing that you’re the best in the league. And it’s Mattituck tradition.”

Midfielder Paul Hayes had a slightly different take. “I don’t want to be compared to last year’s team [which reached the state semifinals],” he said. “This is a new team. I’d just love to be back here, hopefully going back to states. That’s my goal.”

Will Hayes, the coach of the summer team, hoped that the Tuckers will be back there in a few months.

“If you’re a high school kid, that’s what you live for,” he said. “It’s what you want to do. That’s why you play. It’s fun, but you want to win. You want to get out there in the championship game and test yourselves against the best teams and see in the end how good you are.”

The Tuckers will get one more test this summer. They will meet Central Islip, a 1-0 winner over Ward Melville in the boys’ large school final Monday, in the varsity championship game at the complex at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

Playing a larger team does not faze the Tuckers.

“I just want to show them up,” midfielder Chris Hayes said. “I don’t think they’re really expecting too much out of us. But they don’t know us as well.”

Will Hayes remembered when he coached the junior varsity team to the small schools final two years ago. “We got to the final, and sat them down and said, ‘We’re not supposed to win. The big school always wins,’ ” he said. “I think the big school has won every time but three on the JV level.”

Mattituck lost to Sachem on penalties, 7-6.

That was far from the case Monday. Only 3 minutes 20 seconds into the game, the Tuckers received a reality check as Jonny Schefer gave Glenn a 1-0 lead.

“That woke us up right away,” midfielder Paul Hayes said. “This team is not as great as us. We should be winning this game. We just got back into our game plan.”

“It was really intense,” Ostrowski said. “They gave a run the first time we played them. They scored first. Getting scored on first never really has been a problem for us. It was a battle back and forth the whole game. We got caught into their game a little bit, the kick and run. But in the end we pulled it out.”

Less than four minutes later it was tied at 1-1 as Mario Arreola motored down the left side and scored.

Oscar Puluc scored at 12:50, shaking his fist in triumph en route to a 2-1 lead. Only 40 seconds into the second half, Erik Schwartz put in a rebound of Puluc’s shot off the crossbar for a 3-1 lead, a goal the Tuckers needed because Corey Ainsworth brought Glenn within striking distance with Ostrowski pulled out of the goalmouth at 32:40.

Glenn threw just about everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at Mattituck over the final 15 minutes as the Tuckers withstood the pressure.

“It says that we’re experienced,” Ostrowski said. “We’re ready. We’ve got ice blood, basically. We don’t crack under pressure.”