SOUTHEAST REGIONAL FINAL | TUCKERS 5, SPARTANS 4
Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult had a message for David Burkhardt prior to Tuesday’s Southeast Regional Final.
“This game is made for you,” Litchhult said to Burkhardt. “You’re the MVP of League VII. Bring us upstate.”
Burkhardt understood the moment. Two years earlier he was a sophomore on the Tuckers’ 2010 team that lost in the Southeast Regional on penalty kicks.
Now as a senior, he was back again, one last chance to help send the Tuckers to the state final four.
“I really wanted to make a mark on the game today,” Burkhardt said. “Litchhult was telling me before the game, today is my day.”
He wasn’t kidding.
Burkhardt, in an epic performance under the lights at Diamond in the Pines, tallied a hat trick with two assists to lead the Tuckers to a stunning 5-4 victory over Spackenkill (Section IX). The victory sends the Tuckers into the state semifinals Saturday afternoon against unbeaten Livonia (Section V) at Middletown High School.
Burkhardt scored all three of his goals in the second half and assisted on the game-winning goal.
For the third straight game it was senior Stephen Urwand who delivered the decisive goal. With the game deadlocked at 4 late in the second half, Burkhardt controlled the ball in the left corner.
“Everything was going my way, so I wanted to get on it, drive it into the corner and try to cut it back,” Burkhardt said.
He patiently waited for his opportunity, then sent a pass into the box where Urwand controlled it and chipped it up and into the left-corner of the goal with 7:04 left to give the Tuckers the 5-4 advantage.
“It was a great ball played in,” said Urwand, who also scored the game’s first goal. “I saw the goalie was far right and the left was open.”
The goal capped a wild back-and-forth second half that featured a total of six goals. This a game after the Tuckers won 1-0 in double overtime.
The Tuckers led 1-0, then trailed 2-1 at halftime before scoring the first two goals of the second half to take a 3-2 lead. But each time the Tuckers regained the lead, the Spartans answered.
The teams traded goals in the second half with the frequency of a lacrosse game at times.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Litchhult said. “I thought we pretty much had the run of play for the entire game and we gave up four chances and they made us pay for four goals.”
The Tuckers (16-3-1) saw leads of 3-2 and 4-3 evaporate within a minute each time.
The Tuckers outshot the Spartans (14-6-1) and controlled possession throughout. But the Spartans persevered to capitalize on the few chances they had. Spackenkill converted its lone corner kick into a goal that tied the game at 3 right after Burkhardt had scored his second goal.
Burkhardt gave the Tuckers the lead back with his third goal and once again the Spartans instantly responded. Caiden Williams tied the game with what could have been a debilitating goal.
“Every goal was different emotions,” Urwand said. “It was an emotional roller coaster, one I didn’t like at first.”
Once it was over, the Tuckers were all smiles as they celebrated on the field with the boisterous Mattituck fans roaring from the bleachers.
The Tuckers will play in their first state final four since 2007 — when they lost to Spackenkill — and will be trying to win their first state title since 2003, which was Litchhult’s second season as coach.
The victory capped a whirlwind six days, which saw the Tuckers have to win four games because of the condensed schedule.
“I still think we have our best game in us where we could have both sides of the ball play much better,” Litchhult said.
The Tuckers’ offensive outburst Tuesday came against a talented goalkeeper in Blake Kawalski. He was aggressive in net and snagged a number of balls out of the air amid a crowd of players.
Litchhult said he didn’t know much about the Spartans coming into the game, but he knew Kawalski was solid.
“Watching him in warmups I could definitely tell he was very technically sound,” Litchhult said. “He was a very good keeper.”
Urwand now has six goals in the playoffs and has scored in all four games.
He gave all the credit for Tuesday’s win to Burkhardt, a player who’s moved all over the field during the playoffs in different positions.
“Amazing game,” Urwand said. “He has far more skill than me and he used it today. Great goals. I owe it to him.”
Burkhardt opened the game strong and wasn’t hesitant to shoot. He had several good chances, but couldn’t break through.
“He played very well in the first half,” Litchhult said. “The second half, I don’t think I saw a better performance from a player that I can remember.”
“Whatever I did today I’m going to try to do before we go upstate,” Burkhardt said. “Try to eat the same things. Put on the right cleat first.”