Girls Soccer: Mattituck’s Murphy sisters form winning combo

GEORGE FAELLA PHOTO | Nicole Zurawski of Mattituck tried to slip a shot past Port Jefferson goalkeeper Elizabeth Stafford.

There’s no sibling rivalry here.

When sisters Nicole and Courtney Murphy play soccer together, it’s not a matter of “I can do anything you can do better.” It’s more like how can they help each other and learn from one another.

They are expected to play midfield for Mattituck High School this fall, and they’re preparing for it by performing for the Tuckers’ team in the Town of Brookhaven Girls Soccer Summer League.

So, when Courtney, who will be a freshman, scored the first goal in an 8-0 win over Port Jefferson last Thursday, no one was happier for her than Nicole. Likewise, when Nicole, who will be a junior, struck early in the second half at the Diamond in the Pines complex in Coram.

“I love playing with her,” Nicole said. “It just works.”

Being less experienced, Courtney can learn a thing or two from Nicole. “She’s a really good athlete,” Courtney said. “I try to do the stuff she does. She’s one of the best players on the team and I like to learn from what she does.”

To which Nicole replied, “Thanks Courtney.”

The girls are close. They have played on the same travel side, the Mattituck Spirit, an under-16 team in the Long Island Junior Soccer League, the past five years and play on basketball teams together.

GEORGE FAELLA PHOTO | Mattituck's Maryanne Fitzgerald prepared to put her foot into the ball.

Courtney, 14, said she likes Nicole’s “style of play. She’s always first to the ball, aggressive. She always has good passes and looks. She is always one of those players who are on top of the ball and who has good fights for it and wins.”

Nicole, 16, sometimes has to play big sister instead of a teammate with Courtney.

“I try to pick her up if I see her getting down,” she said. “I always compliment her during the game, after the game. I want her to keep playing as she’s done. She’s doing fine playing up here, two years younger than half of us. I think she has been great.”

But it works both ways as well. Courtney can teach her older sister some lessons, too.

“I learned that age can’t be a barrier right now,” Nicole said. “You’re just going to play the game everyone is playing on the field. Play as strong as you can, as tough as you can. Go and score.”

Mattituck Coach Ed Barbante, who also guides the summer team, has liked what he has seen from the Murphy sisters so far this summer season.

Nicole played with the varsity team as a sophomore last year. Beginning the season on the bench, she found herself with more playing time as the season progressed. She is expected to play at central midfield, running the team, and Barbante wanted her to get a little more physical.

“When you play in the middle of the field you get banged around a lot,” Barbante said. “Last year she was kind of a little intimidated. So far this year, she’s playing a little more physical. She’s playing with her head up more, playing quicker.”

Courtney played on the junior varsity team as an eighth-grader, but Barbante saw her enough to realize she brings a lot of potential as a freshman.

“She is just a tireless worker,” he said. “She is completely 100 percent focused. She’s so coachable. It’s a pleasure. Both girls are pleasures to coach. They’re going to be assets for us in the years to come. So, I’m looking forward to having both on the field this upcoming season. They’re both very fine players and they’re good people.”

The summer league produces some unlikely results and situations.

Port Jefferson started the game with only eight players and a ninth, Stephanie Davis, joined the team in the 12th minute. In contrast, Mattituck had 19 players and was able to substitute en masse. In fact, at one juncture in the second half, eight players went on the field at the same time.

The wins are important, but so is getting an opportunity to learn about new teammates.

“It’s great,” Nicole said. “Instead of coming the week before school for our hell week, we’ve already played together. We know each other’s ups and downs, and know to fix it and we can fix it even more at practice instead of just games.”

Courtney agreed.

“It’s a good way to keep your feet on the ball and not just going from the fall season to the fall season,” she said. “You’re constantly playing and improving.”

The summer league is vital for Barbante, who must replace 13 graduated seniors, eight of whom were regulars. It’s a great way to get a read on the players, returnees and others up from the JV team.

“I don’t want to say we’re rebuilding,” he said. “I like the talent we have. The girls that are coming in are going to do a phenomenal job. We have a lot to learn and that’s why the summer league is so important — to get to learn to play with each other.

“That’s the biggest thing, especially at the next level. They’re used to playing JV, travel ball, but once you step onto a varsity field and a varsity game, it’s a whole different level. It’s a different animal, a much quicker pace.”

So far, it has been a pace Barbante and the Murphy sisters have kept up with and then some.

Nicole Murphy’s goal this summer is simple: “To make it to the finals and win,” she said. Why not?”