SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS C TOURNAMENT | PHANTOMS 16, TUCKERS 4
Winning and losing certainly matters, but there was a bigger picture for the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold high school boys lacrosse team to appreciate. The Tuckers reached a milestone Thursday when they played the first playoff game in their four-year varsity history. Just being at St. Joseph’s College’s Deborah and John Danzi Stadium in East Patchogue for the Suffolk County Class C Tournament outbracket game against Bayport-Blue Point was an achievement.
“The boys did what they had to do to get here which is awesome and amazing,” Tuckers coach John Amato said. “That’s what I wanted for this group of seniors, not to just be leaving the team, but to be leaving a little bit of a legacy that they’ll remember.”
As for the playoff game itself, well, that was a different story. No. 2 seed Bayport reeled off the game’s first nine goals and romped, 16-4, thanks in part to the play of attackman Jake Weinman, who scored four goals, assisted on three others and gathered seven ground balls.
“The start was great,” Weinman told reporters. “As long as we come out firing, we’re usually about to beat the team that we’re going against. If we do let up in the second quarter, it doesn’t look so great. Today we didn’t do that.”
Bayport (10-7) also received multiple goals from Jack White (two goals, three assists), George Ringer (two goals, two assists), Kevin Ward (two goals, one assist), Kyle McClancy (two goals, one assist) and Chris Pickel (two goals). Vinny Lombardi and Seth Valestrand also scored for the Phantoms, who will play No. 1 Babylon for the county title on Tuesday evening at the Dowling Sports Complex.
Bayport came out strong, outshooting the No. 3 Tuckers (4-13) by 21-13 in the first half.
“They played a great game but it should have been closer,” Tuckers middie Connor Malone said. “It’s hard to play defense the entire game. The offense wasn’t really possessing the ball too well.”
The Tuckers controlled face-offs, 15-9, and ground balls, 47-38. Still, they didn’t put a shot past goalie Brad Morris (12 saves) until Jack DiGregorio found the net 1 minute 12 seconds into the third quarter.
The Tuckers later received a pair of goals by Pat Robbins and a single tally by Tim Schmidt. The active Schmidt, a sophomore attackman, fired 12 shots and collected nine ground balls.
“He’s going to be solid for us in the future,” Amato said of Schmidt. “To get him to be like that took a lot of work with him, but he’s starting to see that he can get by defenders.”
Amato, a first-year coach, is the Tuckers’ fourth coach in three years. He said he drew chuckles before the season when he said his team would reach the playoffs. That was the team’s No. 1 goal. It was a step several years in the making.
“On the bus ride here, everyone was so focused,” Robbins said. “I feel like all our heart was there.”
The Tuckers gave Bayport a better game on May 12 when the Phantoms prevailed, 9-4, to clinch their playoff spot.
Thursday marked the last time in a Tuckers uniform for four seniors: James Burns, Liam Shuford, Malone and Robbins.
“It was my last year on this team,” Robbins, who will move on to play for Marywood University (Penn), said. “It was great.”
Reflecting on a season that saw the young Tuckers improve noticeably, Malone, choking with emotion, spoke of a bright future for the team with young players like Joe Bartolotto and Schmidt. “It seems like they’re only going to get better in the years to come,” he said. “We got a bunch of young studs out there.”
After the game, Amato had a message for his four seniors. “Even though our four boys are graduating, it doesn’t mean they’re graduating from our program and our family,” he said. “They’ll always be welcome to come back with open arms.”