TUCKERS 3, MUSTANGS 2 (OT)
First came the lightning strikes, and then the thunder, as in “thunder foot.”
Mattituck’s girls soccer team pulled itself out of a two-goal deficit and defeated visiting Mount Sinai in overtime, 3-2, thanks to Lauren Guja’s goal 9 minutes 28 seconds into overtime on Tuesday. Abigail Graeb picked up her second assist of the game on the goal.
Guja, who her coach calls “thunder foot” because of her hard shot and long-range shooting ability, came to the rescue when the Tuckers (6-3, 4-3 Suffolk County League VI) needed a boost in the 20-minute overtime.
On the game-winning play, Guja took a corner kick, passing to Graeb, who dropped a slow, rolling ball back to her on the left flank. Guja trotted up to the ball and drove a lethal right-footed shot, her fifth of the game, under goalkeeper Alicia Pirone. The goal gave Mattituck its first win in three games.
“It’s definitely a confidence-booster,” Guja said. “We needed it.”
Not that Mattituck didn’t have to endure some anxious moments later in overtime. A 40-yard free kick by Mount Sinai’s Rachel Menna struck the left goalpost in the 95th minute. Then, with 1:34 left to play, Savannah Russiello-Tous sent her Mount Sinai teammate Morgan McGrath through with a clear path to the goal. With goalkeeper Stephanie Reisenberg the only one standing between her and the goal, McGrath sent her shot wide to the left.
Mount Sinai (0-8, 0-7) might have been thinking that it would pick up its first win of the season after taking a 2-0 halftime lead on goals by Carissa Gulli and Gabrielle Corrente (penalty kick). Gulli opened the scoring in the 21st minute. Leah Nonneman delivered a left-wing cross that Mattituck’s defense couldn’t get to, but Gulli did, giving the Mustangs their first lead of the season. Then, with 77 seconds left in the first half, Nonneman was taken down in the Mattituck penalty area. Corrente stroked in the resulting penalty kick.
It was an encouraging lead for Mount Sinai, which has been hit hard by crippling injuries that cost the team no less than seven of its starters early in the season. As a result, the Mustangs have had to scramble. Their roster includes one seventh-grader, four eighth-graders, a freshman and four sophomores. The team hasn’t had the same starting lineup more than once.
“We have just been injury-prone,” Mount Sinai coach Courtney Leonard said. “On a daily basis, we’re just trying to survive.”
But Mattituck pulled even, striking for goals by Courtney Murphy and Maryanne Fitzgerald within a span of 57 seconds in the second half.
Perhaps it was well-deserved for all of the close chances that didn’t go in for Mattituck. Graeb struck a shot off the left goalpost in the 24th minute. Alex Berkoski hit the right goalpost in the 36th minute. Amanda Gatz and Nicole Murphy both took close-range blasts that Pirone stopped in quick succession for two of her 13 saves.
Had any one of those shots gone in, it would have made life a little simpler for the Tuckers.
“I just think that sometimes we can be our own worst enemy,” Mattituck coach Pete Hansen said. “Today we were clicking on all four cylinders, except for finishing. We just had so many chances.”
The Tuckers outshot Mount Sinai, 19-10, and earned 11 corner kicks while conceding three.
While the result wasn’t what Mount Sinai wanted, everything else was encouraging for the young team.
“We played hard until the end,” said Mackenzie Kay, who was kept busy, playing left midfielder, center midfielder and right forward at various times in the game for Mount Sinai. “We didn’t give up.”
Leonard said: “For us, this was a huge success. … I was very happy with them because they’re starting to get it. They’re starting to mesh.”
With overtime lurking, Guja was confident. “Honestly, once they said that we were going to go into overtime,” the senior central midfielder said, “I just knew that we were going to win it.”
She explained, “The better team always finds a way to win.”