Huntley’s growth is measured in more than feet and inches

Mattituck’s 6-foot 5-inch goalkeeper, Cody Huntley, figures prominently in the team’s plans for 2010.

One can’t help but notice the height, but there is more to Mattituck’s goalkeeper, Cody Huntley, than his 6 feet 5 inches.

Huntley has grown a couple of inches since last fall, but growth has also been seen in his leadership and maturity. Along with his ability to stop soccer balls from entering his goal, that should all come in handy for the Tuckers as they embark on a new season.

As the final line in a tight defense, Huntley appears primed for a good season. Brought up to the varsity team late in his sophomore season, Huntley settled into the starting position early last season as a junior. Now he is one of Mattituck’s 16 seniors, and a big part of the team’s plans for 2010.

Huntley has good hands and handles crosses quite well, said Coach Mat Litchhult. Of course, Huntley’s height helps in that regard, although low shots can be a challenge to him.

“Height is obviously huge on balls in the air, anywhere in the box,” Litchhult said Monday morning following the team’s first preseason practice. “Other than that, the biggest thing height has is probably an intimidating presence to the shooters. They look up, he’s got a big wingspan. He takes up a lot of the goal. Guys probably look at him, and they’re like, “I don’t have a lot of [space] to put the ball.’ “

That may help to explain Huntley’s success last season when he was an all-conference player for a 9-7-1 Mattituck team that lost to Southampton in a Suffolk County Class B semifinal. He allowed 16 goals in 17 games, posting seven shutouts.

“I expect even better from him this year,” Litchhult said. “Cody’s got to assert himself. He’s got to be a presence back there with his height.”

Most recently, Huntley helped the Tuckers reach the Town of Brookhaven Summer League small school final in which they lost to Sayville in penalty kicks last month. The performance of Huntley and Mattituck’s defense in the summer league was encouraging. The defense posted nine shutouts and conceded eight goals. No wonder the Tuckers went 10-3. An even more telling statistic shows that Mattituck’s first-string defense, including senior sweeper Matt Waggoner, surrendered only two goals.

The secret, Huntley said, is communication. “Me and Matt have pretty good communication in the back,” he said. “That’s why our defense is so good.”

Huntley missed three summer league games in order to go to a soccer camp at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts along with teammates Andres Aldaz and Alex Scalia.

Especially for a player with his height, Huntley is athletic, but he said his footwork needs work. Once there was a time when goalkeepers weren’t expected to do much with their feet. In the modern game, though, goalies must have a degree of comfort with the ball at their feet.

“We don’t want to have 10 outfield players and one goalie,” Litchhult said. “We want it to be 11 outfield players.”

The defense also features Joe Pfaff at stopper. It is likely that Brenden Andersen and Rich Koch will be the outside backs. Austin Scoggin, a junior, is the team’s other goalkeeper.

Huntley was 9 years old when he was first placed in goal, and Waggoner has played on the same teams as him virtually the whole time since.

“I think he’s really good,” Waggoner said. “He’s nice and tall. He can jump, so he can get balls that most keepers wouldn’t get. He knows what he’s doing. He knows the positioning and he knows when to clear and when to pass it out of the back.”

Waggoner said he has noticed improvements in Huntley’s footwork, decision-making and punting. “He doesn’t really surprise,” Waggoner said, “but he does make great saves with his length.”

When Huntley was a freshman, Litchhult took him aside and told him he had the potential to be an excellent goalie who could play at the next level. Indeed, Huntley has ambitions to play beyond high school. He said he is considering attending Hofstra University next year. In the meantime, he plans to do his part to shore up Mattituck’s defense.

Litchhult said the mindset of Mattituck’s defensive players seemed to change midway through the 2009 season. “They took it personal when they got scored on,” he said. “If we can build from that, we’ll be very strong.”

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