Tuckers brave the heat as they prepare for new season

Liz Lasota, a junior sweeper, is one of the players Mattituck is counting on for leadership.

It was 8 o’clock on Monday morning, the first day of high school girls’ soccer practice. As his team ran around the track at Mattituck High School, Tuckers Coach Ed Barbante was looking to see if his players heeded his words.

At the end of the last school year Barbante encouraged his players to train over the summer so they would be in good shape coming into camp. The three-mile fitness run to start the practice session was a way of measuring just how serious each player was.

The Tuckers are practicing twice a week, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., and then from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday’s heat alert, which allowed the players a water break every 15 minutes, may as Barbante said, “break up the flow of practice,” but on a 95-degree day, it helped keep players hydrated.

“Yesterday wasn’t too bad, but today [Tuesday] it got hot quick,” Barbante said. “The girls got tired. Fatigue set in. We are monitoring this and we’ll see how they respond.”

A total of 44 players showed up for the varsity and junior varsity teams. After the fitness run, Barbante had his team, which went 10-4 and lost to Center Moriches in a Suffolk County Class B outbracket game last year, work on individual skills and defense.

The Tuckers will be led this season by senior center midfielder Amber Mello, junior sweeper Liz Lasota and senior goalkeeper Courtney Birkmier. This is Mello’s fifth year on the varsity team. Barbante called Lasota a key to his team’s success. “Liz is a smart player who knows the game well,” he said. “She plays at a high level.”

He also praised Birkmier.

“Courtney is a good shot stopper,” Barbante said. “This is her fourth year on the varsity. She is a veteran presence in the backfield. Being able to lean on and trust your goalie is half the battle. Courtney makes big stops. She comes up big for us.”

Barbante said he will set goals for this season once he selects the team.

“But our overall goal is to always win the county title,” he said. “That’s what we play for. We hold ourself to a higher standard.”

The Tuckers, who will play in League VII, have a rugged schedule that includes Bayport-Blue Point, Babylon, Mount Sinai, Elwood/John Glenn, Southampton and Center Moriches.

“We have a lot of tough Class A schools on our schedule,” Barbante said. “This is one of the toughest leagues in Suffolk County. But two years ago, we had a similar schedule and we were successful. We won the county championship. So we hope history repeats itself.”

Barbante said his team must stay healthy and has to be ready to go.

“We can do special things this year,” he said. “We’ve got a veteran group. We’ve got 13 seniors. We have a lot of starters back. We should be very successful.”

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