SUFFOLK CLASS C FINALS | PANTHERS 9, TUCKERS 5
A team’s first trip to the red and white LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University rarely ends well. Before Mount Sinai broke through in 2008, there were the beatdowns at the hands of Shoreham-Wading River.
John Glenn needed a loss against Mount Sinai before clinching a title of its own in 2010. That year, the Knights defeated Bayport-Blue Point for the Class C title.
One year later, Bayport cemented its arrival in Suffolk boys lacrosse with a county title of its own.
History would suggest a title may not be too far away for Mattituck/Greenport/Southold. The Tuckers, in just the fifth year of a varsity program, made their inaugural trip a county championship Wednesday afternoon. But as many teams in the past have found out, championships don’t come easy.
Facing a Babylon team that defeated the Tuckers twice in league play, the Tuckers fell 9-5 in a game they never led.
“We’ll enjoy it, this has been an amazing year,” said Mattituck coach John Amato. “But I think it’s going to make them hungrier. I really do.”
After winning the first playoff game in program history last week, the Tuckers had their sights set on even bigger things when they stepped onto the turf against the Panthers.
Amato even channeled his inner-Hoosiers to help his players.
“I think the awe of the stadium kind of got into them,” he said. “I said, hey, it’s just another lacrosse game on a different looking field. It’s still the same lines. It’s still a lacrosse field.”
The Panthers broke the game open in the third quarter, scoring four unanswered goals to take its biggest lead of the game, 8-3.
A team that doesn’t necessarily score in huge numbers, the Panthers played a deliberate fourth quarter en route to its second straight championship. It was the fifth county crown in program history and first back-to-back run since 2003-04.
Babylon will play at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Long Island Championship against Cold Spring Harbor.
For a team that started just three seniors Wednesday, the Tuckers are determined to make it back next season.
“We owe it to our seniors,” said junior Jeff Hauser, who scored a goal with an assist against Babylon. “Next year we’re going to be back. County championship again.”
Hauser credited the seniors on the team for helping the Tuckers get to this point.
“[Midfielder] Jack DiGregorio, he led by example,” Hauser said. “He pushed everybody in practice. A lot of the guys did that.”
Amato said the seniors were there during the early lean years as the program was just building.
“They stuck with it and that shows a lot about who they are,” he said. “I’m really proud of them and their leadership.”
The Tuckers hoped to keep Babylon to single digits. They accomplished that, but simply couldn’t generate enough offense even with a decided advantage in face-offs. Junior Dylan Marlborough was dominant on the face-offs, but the Tuckers couldn’t always turn those wins into possessions.
“Dylan does a good job, but we started losing the ball at the face-off X in the second half and that’s where it kind of started to slip,” Amato said.
The Panthers struck quickly in the third quarter on goals by junior Bodie Pitagno and Theodore Allen. The Tuckers thought they were in good position after trailing by just a goal at halftime.
“The second half it fell apart a little bit,” Hauser said. “A couple little minor mistakes and they make goals off those mistakes.”
Pitagno scored three goals for Babylon. Senior Brian Boehm had two goals and two assists. Junior Nick Antolini posted three assists to go with a goal.
The Tuckers got two goals from eighth grader Max Kruzseski. Junior Tim Schmidt and sophomore James Hoeg added the others.
Seeing an eighth-grader score a pair of goals might have turned some heads in the stadium. Not Amato’s.
“He’s just a kid having fun,” he said. “He doesn’t feel pressure. He’s just having a good time.”
The Panthers had their own eighth-grader shine. Brendan Watt started between the pipes and made several tough saves.