For two excruciating years, the Mattituck Tuckers lived with the belief and bitter memory that they were the best Class B boys soccer team in the state, but had nothing to show for it.
In 2012, they dominated Livonia in the semifinals, but lost to the state champions.
Last year, they felt they were the better team in the Long Island championship, but fell in overtime to eventual state winner Carle Place.
As the top-ranked team in the state, the senior-leading team was not about to let another opportunity slip away.
Buoyed by two goals by senior Kaan Ilgin and another strike by Kevin Williams, Mattituck earned its third state title, recording a 3-0 victory over Beekmantown at Faller Field at Middletown High School Stadium in Middletown, N.Y. Sunday.
“Finally, we did it,” Ilgin said. “We were waiting for this moment. We should have won last year and the year before.”
But these Tuckers (19-2), a senior-laden team, were a year older and a year wiser.
Ilgin called it “the best feeling I ever had. I never had this feeling before. It felt so much different. We came up here two years ago it didn’t feel like this. We’re all seniors and we had to do the job. We didn’t come here to have fun. We came here to finish business and we did it.”
Indeed they did. The Tuckers secured an emphatic 6-0 semifinal win over Skaneateles Saturday, allowing coach Mat Litchhult to rest several players for Sunday’s main event.
Winning the state title was “pure joy” to Litchhult, who had directed the Tuckers to the 2003 Class C state crown in his second year as coach.
“We talked about it early on how the ride was going to be,” he said. “We thought there was only one way to end it. We went through some stuff early in the year, but these guys stuck together. What hurt us early on made us stronger late. It was only one way to go out and that was with a victory for these guys. It’s like a storybook ending for these guys.”
Litchhult admitted it took the team some time to gel at the beginning of the year. The team started the season 3-2, with one of its losses coming against the state runner-up in Class A, East Hampton. After a 2-0 loss to Hampton Bays Sept. 17, the Tuckers rolled off 16 consecutive victories.
“At times early in the season, we were trying to figure out each other,” Litchhult said. “We were trying to figure out who was going to take the lead and how we were going to go together as our family. It’s an amazing thing to get there and for these guys to win their last match together. It closes a chapter on an amazing ride these guys had for four years.”
Litchhult, who played on and coached some pretty amazing Mattituck teams, gave this one its due.
“The 2003 team was an amazing, hard-working disciplined team that loved to practice. But in a match, this team this year hands down better than them,” he said. “This is the best team that has ever come through Mattituck.”
Those were pretty strong words considering Mattituck has been playing the sport for 78 years.
The Eagles (18-3) proved to be a difficult side to break down, but the Tuckers finally found a way to separate themselves from their foes with 5:49 remaining in the first half. Mario Arreola, Saturday’s goal-scoring hero, launched a long pass that Ilgin ran onto down the left side before he chipped goalkeeper Colen Mrak.
“I told the boys, if we scored the first goal, we were going to win,” Iglin said.
Williams, who has scored most of his goals through free kicks, doubled the score after a deflected pass to Arreola came back to him. He drilled a 35-yard blast into the upper left corner at 51:47.
“I didn’t think about it,” Williams said. “I just hit it. I thought it was going way over. It looked like it was going to hit the post but it dropped in the last second or two.”
Ilgin put the icing on the cake, connecting off a 30-yard free kick with 5:13 left in the match for a career-high 20 goals.
Several minutes later, the Tuckers finally celebrated a moment they had been waiting two long years for. It turned out to be worth the wait.