This battle of second-year teams goes to Southampton

Ryan Malone of Mattituck/Greenport/Southold raced down the sideline while an unidentified Southampton player made a desperate lunge in an attempt to slow him down.

Game experience is a valuable thing, especially for two fledgling teams trying to find their way in the rough-and-tumble world of Suffolk County high school boys lacrosse.

In that sense, the Southampton Mariners and the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold Tuckers, two second-year varsity teams, have something in common. Every game is a learning experience. Every play offers a lesson.

So, when the two teams met in a Suffolk County Division II game on Tuesday, they were amped over the prospect of a possible win, something that isn’t expected to come easily for either this year. Southampton was the one that came away with the result it was looking for.

Pat Tuths scored three goals and assisted on another while Sean Nolan made 12 saves for Southampton in an 8-5 win in Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s home opener at Strawberry Fields in Mattituck.

“We’re getting better, but we still need a bigger foundation,” Southampton Coach Brian Tenety said. “There is just a lot of game knowledge that we have to obtain in order for us to get into those games against the Babylons and the Kings Parks. We still have a lot of learning to do.”

The same could be said of the Tuckers. Their first-year coach, Tim Corcoran, shook his head knowingly with a grin when asked about the challenges faced by such a young program.

“It’s difficult, but it’s fun at the same time,” he said. “The kids are really learning a lot and they’re playing well. I mean, you can’t expect them to be doing much more than they’re doing now. They learn from it every day.”

One of the things the Tuckers learned was that Tuths, a junior midfielder, knows what to do when he has the ball in the pocket of his stick. Tuths scored or assisted on three of Southampton’s first four goals.

Jon Strumph added two goals and an assist, and Chris Pobat contributed a goal and two assists for the Mariners (1-2, 1-1 Division II), who equaled their win total from their entire 2009 season. Also finding the net for Southampton were Marley Doherty and Kyle McGuinness. Another Mariner, Ciro De Rosa, sent a shot off the pipe.

Four of Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s goals came from Nick Cosgrove. The Tuckers (0-2, 0-2) also received three assists from Connor Stumpf, one goal and one assist from Matt Miller, and one assist from Jesse Grathwohl. Their goalkeeper, Eric Izzo, stopped nine shots.

Southampton scored the first three goals and led by 5-1 before a pair of Cosgrove goals trimmed the Mariners’ lead to 5-3 late in the third quarter. But then Southampton struck for three straight goals by Strumph, Tuths and McGuinness to surge ahead, 8-3. Stumpf set up strikes by Cosgrove and Miller with 1 minute and 53 seconds remaining and 1:09 to go, respectively, closing the gap for Mattituck/Greenport/Southold.

“I knew they were going to want it just as much as we were going to want it,” Tuths said. “We had to work for it.”

Tenety said the game marked a step forward for his team following losses to the Kings Park Kingsmen and the Brentwood Indians. But he also knows there will undoubtedly be tough days ahead when the Mariners face more established teams. “Division II lacrosse is stacked,” Tenety said. “Everywhere you look it’s phenomenal. You got a lot of reputable coaches who have been doing this a very long time… It’s hard to break into, but you just kind of keep chipping away at it.”

The Tuckers can empathize. When asked how difficult this season will be for his team, Corcoran replied, “Rough,” and then laughed. “We got a tough schedule,” he said.

Cosgrove said: “It’s very difficult because we have a very young team and a lot of new starters. It’s hard for them to know what’s going on half the time and know where to be. There’s a lot of experience that they don’t have yet, but I think as we progress in the season we’ll be a lot better.”

The Mariners were understandably happy with their win. Tenety said he would like to see more of them.

“Victory is always good,” he said. “Obviously a win is always big for a program when we go home and say we won a game. At the same time, they have to understand that it should become expected after a while, and hopefully it becomes a little part of the culture.”