Change has been a constant in the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold boys lacrosse team’s brief history. For the fourth time in three years, the Tuckers have a new coach. In steps John Amato, who hopes to bring positive change to the playing field.
Amato, 24, is the product of an established lacrosse program. He played middie for William Floyd High School before playing for Dowling College. His new project is to navigate the Tuckers forward in their development.
“It’s a big opportunity for them and for me to build this program,” Amato said Friday while watching his players practice in bone-chilling weather on the Aldrich Lane field in Laurel.
Amato succeeds Ryan Mahoney, who left to coach the East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson girls lacrosse team.
The first two years of the Tuckers’ varsity experience were, predictably, rough. They went 3-25 in those two seasons. Last season was a minor breakthrough of sorts as the Tuckers raised their game and became more competitive, finishing with a 6-10 record. They defeated Brentwood, Hampton Bays (twice), Center Moriches, Deer Park and Bishop McGann-Mercy.
Nothing earth-shattering, but it was progress.
“A big jump, yes,” Pat Robbins, a senior attackman, said. “Last season was a lot better than the previous season. We just went after it hard.”
Now the Tuckers prepare to enter Year 4 in the hope that the positives they experienced last year will carry over into the new season.
“I’m just looking for a brighter future,” said Matt Carter, a junior defenseman who, like Robbins, is in his third year on the team. “A lot of the young kids are coming up. They’re just going to get better.”
It is Amato’s job to mold that talent and figure out the best way to position the pieces that he has to work with.
“We stress the little things and work ethic is huge, and just playing together as a team,” he said. “Those are the biggest things.”
One of the Tuckers’ strengths over the years has been their fighting spirit. It’s a quality that comes in handy, particularly for a team that has to deal with low numbers. This year is no different. The roster lists only 23 players, which means that physical conditioning will be paramount.
“The key factor is possession on offense because we don’t really have the numbers, so if we make this a back-and-forth kind of game, we’ll be shot,” said Robbins.
The Tuckers lost nine players from last year’s team, but return 14. Among them are four seniors: defenseman James Burns, defenseman William Shuford, middie Connor Malone and Robbins.
Cal Seifert, a junior, will help out on the attack. The midfield offers experience in the form of juniors Jack DiGregorio and Nick Vitolano, sophomores Jeffrey Hauser and Zachary Holmes, and Malone.
Two juniors, Chris Mauceri and Dylan Holmes, will help fortify the defense. The team’s goalies are sophomore Alec Durkin and junior Adam Steele.
“We’re all very pumped, ready to get after it,” said Robbins.
Amato seems to have already made an impression on his players.
“I love him,” Carter said. “He brings the intensity. He really brings out the best in all of us.”
Amato said the team is capable of making it into the playoffs for the first time this year.
“This group has really taken pride in starting something big out here,” he said. He added: “I really just sense excitement, to be honest. They’re just really excited and they’re believing in themselves.”