Boys Soccer: Aldaz’ goal brings Tuckers Long Island crown

GARRET MEADE PHOTO Andres Aldaz scored the game-winning goal that made Mattituck a Long Island champion for the second time in four years.

After his high school boys soccer team had taken a 2-0 lead by halftime, Mattituck Tuckers Coach Mat Litchhult knew a third goal would be crucial, and he was right. What Litchhult didn’t know at the time, however, was that Mattituck’s third goal wouldn’t come until after the Wheatley Wildcats had scored twice, evening the score.
Mattituck blew a 2-0 lead for the fourth time this season, but survived, no small thanks to Andres Aldaz. Aldaz scored the game-winner for the second straight game, lifting the Tuckers to an exciting 3-2 triumph in a Southeast Region Class B semifinal at Diamond in the Pines on Wednesday night.
By winning their second Long Island championship in four years, the Tuckers pulled to within one win of reaching the New York State final four, something they last accomplished in 2007. That win could come on Saturday when the Tuckers (16-2-1) advance to a regional final against John S. Burke Catholic at Diamond in the Pines.
“This is just awesome,” Mattituck forward Kevin Reyer said, “the best feeling in the world.”
The Tuckers can thank Aldaz, a senior central midfielder, for coming to the team’s rescue once again. It was Aldaz, after all, who moments after cramping up, struck for the golden goal in a 3-2 overtime triumph over the Center Moriches Red Devils in the Suffolk County final four nights earlier.
Aldaz was the star of the show once again on Wednesday. A kick by Mattituck’s David Burkhardt skimmed off Reyer’s back and went to Aldaz, who provided expert finishing for the go-ahead goal in the 60th minute.
“I knew I had to score because I missed the first one,” said Aldaz, referring to a close-range shot early in the second half when he pounded a shot off goalkeeper Eric Orologio. It was one of seven saves by Orologio.
Aldaz, who has 13 goals to his credit this season, has shown a knack for coming through in the clutch. No wonder he was sought after for postgame interviews by reporters.
“He’s the man and he’s the hero, and he deserves everything he gets because he’ll go down as [one of] my top five favorite players,” Litchhult said. “He’s just a hard worker. The kid is fit and never stops. If he makes a mistake on the field, he’s going to go back and make up for it.”
Mattituck held a 2-0 lead by the 21st minute. Reyer tapped in a ball that Matt Waggoner had headed toward him for his ninth goal of the season in the 14th minute. Then the Tuckers benefitted from an own goal. Burkhardt, stationed on the left side, centered a hard, driven ball toward the onrushing Reyer. The only thing was Wheatley defender Jonathan Reshef was the one who got a foot on the ball, inadvertently poking it into his own net in a lightning-quick sequence.
“It was a hard, fast ball that just deflected the wrong way,” Wheatley Coach Steve Cadet said. “If he does that a hundred more times, 99 times it goes out of bounds.”
The goal might have given the Tuckers a dose of instant confidence, but if they were tempted to think they would have an easy time the rest of the way, they were dead wrong.
Oliver Parizat and Jake Butwin brought Wheatley (12-5-3) second-half goals within an eight-minute span to tie the score at 2-2. Parizat slammed in a shot after receiving a short pass from Charley Cooper, and Butwin swept in a shot to complete a promising buildup, with an assist from Landon Baker.
Mattituck’s defense, led by goalkeeper Cody Huntley and Waggoner, the sweeper, then held off the surging Wildcats as they urgently pressed forward in search of an equalizer. Huntley stopped nine shots and Waggoner made a couple of critical tackles. On one failed offside trap, Waggoner seemingly came out of nowhere to make a potential goal-saving slide tackle.
“They don’t want to lose, and I don’t blame them, so they fought back,” said Waggoner.
Wheatley had two golden scoring chances in the final five minutes. Huntley did well to save a clear shot by Alex Butwin, and Parizat sent a wide-open attempt just wide to the right of the goal.
In the end, the Tuckers hung on by a thread.
“I was getting scared,” said Burkhardt.
The game saw eight yellow cards issued, including one apiece to two assistant coaches, Pete Hansen of Mattituck and Marco Da Fonte of Wheatley.
Nobody has to tell the Tuckers that 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer. They know full well.
“I don’t know what it is,” Litchhult said. “I guess it puts the other team in an uncomfortable position, but they get to throw a lot of numbers forward, and they did that. They were a little overwhelming at times. So, we held on, Aldaz became the hero again, and we gave the fans a show.”
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