Boys Soccer: Penalty kicks deny Tuckers a place in final four

GARRET MEADE PHOTO Kevin Reyer of Mattituck was a picture of dejection after the Tuckers lost in penalty kicks to John S. Burke Catholic.

For 110 minutes of soccer, neither the John S. Burke Catholic Eagles or the Mattituck Tuckers could score. Then, ironically, in the penalty-kick tiebreaker that followed, they did just about nothing else but score.
But it was in penalty kicks, soccer’s version of a coin flip, that Mattituck’s dream of reaching the New York State Class B final four was crushed.
Ryan Souto converted the decisive kick as Burke Catholic prevailed in penalty kicks, 7-6, following 110 minutes of goalless play in the Southeast Region final at Diamond in the Pines on Saturday night. Undefeated Burke Catholic (20-0) will advance to a state semifinal on Saturday against an unknown opponent at Middletown High School. Burke Catholic Coach Robert Dickover said he believes it is the first time that the Eagles have ever advanced to the state semifinals.
“It’s great. It’s back home for me,” said Dickover, who lives in Middletown, which is located only about six miles from the Burke Catholic school.
Nial Croke, a 25-goal scorer who was held scoreless through regulation and overtime, netted his penalty kick for Burke Catholic as did teammates Kevin Jimenez, Marc Torres, Kyle Smith, Zack Rufer, Brian Mortimore and, finally, Souto.
Mattituck’s successful penalties were taken by Andres Aldaz, Brenden Andersen, Matt Waggoner, Kevin Reyer, Alex Scalia and Joe Pfaff.
The tiebreaker turned when Ryan Finger of Mattituck sent his attempt high over the crossbar, the only miss of the penalties. While the upset Finger was being consoled by Waggoner, Souto stepped up for his winning kick. Moments later, Souto’s teammates were charging toward him in a joyous stampede.
“I was in a running stance,” Croke said. “I was ready to sprint at him. I just ran. I wanted to pick him up. It was crazy.”
Meanwhile, the scene by the Mattituck bench was a somber one. The Tuckers (16-3-1) were trying to return to the final four for the second time in four years.
“It’s hard that it’s over,” Mattituck Coach Mat Litchhult said. “I mean, it’s a great group of guys. They worked at it to get to this position, to put themselves in an opportunity to go upstate. So, it’s bittersweet to see it end, but they didn’t lose on the field, they lost in penalty kicks.”
Both teams had their chances to win it before going to penalty kicks.
Cody Huntley, who played heroically in Mattituck’s goal, made a nice save on Croke’s shot off a restart in the first half.
Two of the best scoring chances in the second half belonged to the Tuckers. Aldaz, who twice went down with leg cramps, slid to meet a left-wing service and sent the ball over the top. Then, with 40 seconds left in regulation time, Waggoner beat goalkeeper Andrew Nutt to a cross, but Nutt managed to block Waggoner’s close-range header, nonetheless.
“We had our chances,” Huntley said. “If you get chances, you got to put them in the net. We didn’t do that today.”
With the game building to a dramatic ending, the second overtime featured several exciting sequences. Huntley made a big save on Michael Valverde before a defender cleared the ball to safety. Mattituck right back Brandon Lake made a critical goalmouth clearance on another play. But the best chance of the game came with 3 minutes 25 seconds left in the second overtime period. Croke went horizontal to dive for a header that pounded off the left goalpost and shot back into Huntley’s grateful arms.
Then it was time for penalties.
“We were kind of out of bullets, so some of our guys really stepped up,” said Dickover, whose team is ranked second in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association (Mattituck is sixth). “It’s not anybody’s favorite way of ending it, unless you win it.”
It was a tough way for Mattituck and its 15 seniors to bow out.
“Fifteen seniors worked hard every day and it’s going to be tough to see them go,” Litchhult told reporters. “That’s the hardest part of this.”
Meanwhile, Burke Catholic, the Section IX champion from Goshen, extends a remarkable season — perhaps the greatest in school history — and moves on.
“I can’t even describe it,” Croke said. “None of us can describe it. I don’t think we believe it.”
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