Tuckers have pieces in place for a big season

Amber Mello, Mattituck’s all-state center midfielder, and Southold/Greenport’s Aly Dey during a game last year.

To say that the pieces are falling in place for a successful season would be putting it mildly. Coming off the disappointment of an early playoff exit last year, the Mattituck Tuckers are loaded with talent and experience as they head into the new high school girls soccer season.

Nine players with starting experience are back. Thirteen seniors, seven of whom are starters, dot the roster. The mindset is a determined one, with the memory of a loss to Center Moriches last year in a Suffolk County Class B outbracket game still painfully fresh.

“They seem very motivated,” Coach Ed Barbante said. “They have one thing in mind: They’re looking for a championship this year.”

Having players like all-state senior center midfielder Amber Mello, all-conference junior defender Liz Lasota and all-league senior forward Fiona Gorman doesn’t hurt. In addition, the Tuckers (11-5 last year) also have goalkeeper Courtney Birkmier, marking back Maille McDermott, defenders Anna Goeller and Lauren Guja, outside midfielders Rebekah Smith and Veronica Stelzer and center midfielder Morgan Zuhoski. They were all regular faces in the lineup in 2009.

The other returners are goalkeeper Jessica McDonald, defenders Jackie Berkowski and Jessica Stumph and midfielder/defender Kelly Gatto.

“From my back with my keeper to my forwards, I feel very confident,” said Barbante, who takes a 49-15-3 (.731) record into his fifth season as Mattituck’s coach. “We’re very well-skilled in these positions. I feel we can play with anybody.”

Lisa Harbes, a senior midfielder/defender who played for Mattituck’s junior varsity team in 2008 before transferring to The Stony Brook School last year, returns to the Tuckers. She is joined by other newcomers: midfielder/defender Amanda Gatz, midfielders Nicole Murphy and Melissa Milowski and forwards Christina Fasolino, Kaitlyn Coorhy, Alex Berkowski, Nikki Dawreski and Katherine Wilcenski. Mello is in her fifth year as a varsity player, and it’s Birkmier’s fourth year on the team.

“The level of play is certainly much higher than past younger teams,” Barbante said. “They’re self-driven. They know what it takes to win. This is a good, solid year for us to make a run at something special.”

Wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

Well, the situation is not exactly that severe for Southold/Greenport (13-4 last season), but it’s not that far off, either. Emily Metz, an all-league senior defender, senior midfielder Megan Knapp and senior defender Emma Richter are the only three Clippers with substantial varsity experience. All three were starters on last year’s League VII champion team, which lost in penalty kicks to Center Moriches in the Suffolk Class B final.

“Brand new beginning,” said Kevin McGoey, who enters his second season as Southold/Greenport’s coach.

The Clippers will be relying on sophomore goalkeeper Melissa Rogers, who played in last year’s county final after Sarah Hallock got injured. After her, there are a lot of new faces. Forwards Chelsea Anderson and Justina Babcock, midfielders Kelly Bosco, Jessica Carlson, Jessica Carr, Megan Melly and Lauren Smith, and defenders Nicole Busso, Meagan Glenn and Shanice Strickland are all making the jump to the varsity level.

McGoey said his younger players bring with them a good deal of enthusiasm. “They are a young team and they’re excited to be at the varsity level,” he said.

Still, the Clippers lost 11 players from last year’s team, including Sarah Golden (33 goals, 20 assists) and Nicole Van Bourgondien (21 goals, 18 assists), who pretty much accounted for the team’s offense.

“We’ll have to wait and see exactly where our goals are going to come from,” McGoey said. “That is our question mark. Naturally the players are different. We’re still going in with the mindset to attack. Most important, we have to make sure that we don’t give up goals early in the game.”

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