Mat Litchhult, who directed the Mattituck boys soccer team to its third New York State championship Sunday, stunned his team and local soccer community, announcing that he will step down as coach.
Litchhult, whose team won two state titles during his tenure, made the announcement to the team at its annual signing of the wall by the team’s senior players in the equipment room at the high school in the afternoon and at Tuckers’ victory dinner at Jason’s Vineyard in Jamesport later that night.
A graduate of Mattituck, the 37-year-old Litchhult said it was an “extremely difficult” decision to make. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
“My heart my telling me no, but in the end I think my brain was telling me it was the right move,” he said. “You never know if you’re making the right decision. I know I have a lot of support. My wife supports what I do. My family supports what I do. The community supports what I do. But in the end, I think that in order to be a what I consider to be a good dad, I would like to do it for 12 months of the year instead of sometimes I feel like I’m out for about four months at a time.
“I only know how to do the job one way, which is all in for as hard as I can and focus on the team. If we’re successful enough, where it starts in August and it usually doesn’t end until Thanksgiving or right before Thanksgiving time, which is a long run. We’re usually right there for that whole stretch of time.”
Litchhult’s third child and first son, Gavin, was born on Sept 25. His wife is a full-time first grade teacher.
“When my wife found she was going to have our third kid, I knew it was going to be a little bit tougher as we went along,” he said. “I had a feeling that going out with this team would be the right move. I talked about it before the season started … if we were lucky enough if we could come away and win the state championship, which we were fortunate enough to do. In the end, I think it was the right move.”
The five-time defending Suffolk County champions Tuckers captured the state Class B title behind a 3-0 win over Beekmantown in Middletown, N.Y. Sunday, 3-0, after defeating Skaneateles in the semifinals, 6-0, on Saturday.
During his 13-year tenure as Mattituck coach, Litchhult’s teams forged an 181-50-14 record and a .739 winning percentage. He guided the Tuckers to the 2003 Class C state championship in only his second year at the helm of the varsity.
Needless to say, Litchhult’s announcement came as a surprise to the soccer team.
“It was jaw-dropping,” captain Kevin Williams said. “I did not expect it. I knew he had a third kid coming along the way and had a lot of obligations. It was a smart decision on his part.
Litchhult was only the sixth head coach in the Tuckers’ 78-year history.
He succeeded Joe Vasile-Cozzo, Mike Huey, Craig Osmer, Frank Grabowski and Robert Muir.
“When everyone thinks of Mattituck soccer, the first thing they think of with boys soccer is how well we’ve done in the past and the person who has done it is Mr. Litchhult,” Williams said. “It’s going to be way weirder to find a replacement than any other replacement that has occurred in the high school. Hopefully, I wish him luck next year, but I think Litch is going to have to help a little bit next year. I can’t see him staying away from the field every day.”
Only 48 hours since capturing the state championship, Litchhult said he had received many emails and texts from upstate soccer observers.
He said that they were “all very complimentary on the way the team played, how impressed they were by them.”
Huey, the Suffolk County boys soccer chairman who is a former Mattituck soccer coach and athletic director, was told by his colleagues that they were impressed by the Tuckers.
“They told him at times we looked like a professional team out there,” Litchhult said. “I’m very proud of the guys that way because they played the game the right way. The way we tried to instill in them and they did it with class. “