Mattituck building toward future in summer league

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Mattituck striker Abigail Graeb scored the Tuckers’ lone goal Tuesday night against John Glenn.

Abby Graeb admits she is competitive by nature. She demands a lot of herself.

“I hate losing,” she said. “I hate tying. That’s a loss for me, personally. I just give it my all.”

So it should not be surprising that the soon-to-be high school junior was disappointed in the result of Mattituck’s 1-1 tie with John Glenn in the opener of the Town of Brookhaven Summer League Tuesday night at the Patchogue-Medford Youth Complex.

Graeb and her teammates realize that the summer league will be the first step in rebuilding the Tuckers for the fall season. They lost 13 seniors from last year’s team, which reached the Suffolk County Class B semifinals.

“My philosophy is that there’s always room for improvement, and clearly there is,” Graeb said. “It’s summer soccer and we lost half of our varsity team due to the seniors graduating. We’re still getting familiar, trying to build our new team. We’ve had only three practices. I think we need to work together. Hell week [pre-season in August] will always be a good time for that. Right now this is just a good starting point to see where we are.”

Graeb, who scored the lone goal for Mattituck, will be battling for a starting spot this fall. Last year she had a senior playing in front of her at her position, although she did start a few games.

“If I didn’t start [coach Peter Hansen] put me in and I played more than half of every game,” Graeb said.

So getting a good jump start during the summer league is important to Graeb and her teammates.

“I’m looking forward to this upcoming year, but I lost a lot of friends, lost a lot of solid players,” she said. “All our seniors were basically starters except for two. I feel this year will be more of a defensive year, it looks like. But that’s also giving us something else to work on — offense.”

The Tuckers had an opportunity to work on attacking Tuesday and Graeb tallied past goalkeeper Rachel Rosenberg in the eighth minute to take a 1-0 lead. Graeb chipped Rosenberg, a field player who was tending goal because the team did not have a regular goalkeeper.

“I have a problem of keeping my head down,” Graeb said. “I just picked my head up. I saw an opportunity to try to beat a girl. I kind of chipped it over the goalie.”

The summer league allows players to start working on match fitness for the season, which kicks off in September, while playing the game they love. Mattituck is a combination of players from Mattituck, Greenport and East Hampton. The league is an informal competition in which players have to provide their own transportation to games. Depending on where they live, East End players might have to drive up to an hour to get to games.

Sometimes getting a full starting 11 is an achievement. Glenn began with 12 players as two more participants showed up during the match.

Even though the Tuckers had five substitutes, not all players were interchangeable. When one of the coaches asked a player whether she had ever played midfield, she replied, “If you really want me to, I can figure it out.”

The Tuckers are guided by a pair of Mattituck alumni — Kaitlin Graeb (class of 2008), Abby’s older sister, and Veronica Stelzer (2011). This is their first coaching gig.

“We take it seriously,” Stelzer said.

“We’re Mattituck alumni, so we want the girls to do well,” Kaitlin Graeb said. “That’s been a tradition in our school.”

Something the Tuckers want to continue this fall. Tuesday was just the unofficial starting point.

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