Girls Soccer: An encouraging start to summer for Tuckers

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Amanda Gatz of Mattituck left her feet to get a foot on the ball during Tuesday night's game against Miller Place.

The Mattituck girls soccer team seems to possess that valuable quality of tailoring the proper mind-set for the situation. The Tuckers know when to be personable, when to share some laughs, and when to be serious. Smiles on the sidelines turn into game faces on the field.

“They’re actually all good friends, so it’s a good team network, and when they’re on the field, they’re all business,” assistant coach Jim Murphy said. “When they’re off the field, they can talk about it and laugh about it, but when they’re on the field, their disposition changes.”

Based on their performance on the field on Tuesday evening, the Tuckers had good cause to smile and laugh afterward.

A new era — the Pete Hansen era — for Mattituck girls soccer kicked off without the team’s new coach, Pete Hansen, but with a win the Tuckers could feel good about.

Lauren Guja, a senior stopper turned forward, scored both goals for Mattituck, including the game-winner with less than five minutes remaining to give the Tuckers a 2-1 triumph over Miller Place on the opening night of the Town of Brookhaven Summer League.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's Samantha Stapon, right, tries to ward off a Miller Place player while chasing the ball.

What had to be encouraging for the Tuckers, just as much as the result, was the way they played on the field turf at Diamond in the Pines in Coram. They played smart and composed, connecting passes to feet.

“It’s a good start for the season,” said Murphy, who ran the team in the absence of Hansen, who was on a vacation. “For the first time, really, playing this year, I thought they played well together. There was some good continuity, some great passing, some great touches.”

Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Tuckers have 14 players who were on the school varsity team last fall, and the other seven players on the summer roster were on the junior varsity team.

“With most of us coming back, we’re used to playing with each other by now,” said Guja, who was an all-conference player last fall. “So, we just need to start winning games this season and just work toward that.”

It was also a good start for Guja who, although she had played forward for her club team, was stationed up front for the Tuckers for the first time. She bagged a couple of well-deserved goals that were set up by Alex Berkoski and Courtney Murphy, the assistant coach’s daughter.

“They were perfect crosses,” Guja said. “You have to finish those at this level.”

Guja poked in a shot off a pass from Murphy to snap a 1-1 tie in the 55th minute of the 60-minute game.

In the 20th minute, Guja had made it 1-0. Berkoski knocked a ball forward from the left flank, and Guja knocked the ball into the net.

“What an athlete,” Jim Murphy said. “She’s very, very athletic, very smart player on the field. Those are great goals. Good team goals, too.”

Guja proved to be a handful for Miller Place’s defenders to handle. She provided a right-wing service for Abby Graeb, who nearly scored in the 13th minute. In the 39th minute, Guja almost scored again, only to be denied by a save for a corner kick.

Miller Place pulled even at 1-1 when Mikayla Dooley punched in a ball near the goal line in the 45th minute.

The Panthers might have taken the lead themselves nine minutes later if not for Nicole Zurawski’s hustle and potential game-saving tackle.

Berkoski, a senior who can play as an outside midfielder or forward, said, “It’s a good way to start the season.”

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