Will Hayes is itching to get the season started.
The former assistant coach for the Mattituck High School soccer team, Hayes was hired in May to replace Mat Litchhult after his resignation following the Tuckers’ state championship.
“I really want to get into practicing five days a week,” Hayes said Monday, speaking like a true coach by referencing practices, not games.
They’ll be plenty of new faces this year after the Tuckers graduated nearly the entire team from last year. To help that transition, the Tuckers have been playing in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League, giving Hayes a chance to see his new players in action and for those kids to learn what’s expected of playing on varsity.
The new-look Tuckers have held their own, posting a 3-3-3 record with one game left in the regular season. The Tuckers battled Bayport-Blue Point to a 0-0 draw on Monday night in Medford.
“You can’t really judge a lot based on what you see here,” Hayes said. “But the important thing is the kids are getting the experience and the time and acclimating themselves.”
Hayes said he’s been impressed by what he’s seen so far from some of the younger kids.
James Jacobs, an incoming freshman, and Kyle Makely, a junior, have both seen time at goalkeeper. Jacobs played in goal Monday against the Phantoms.
“[Jacobs] made a couple really good saves, kept us level at critical points in the game and has really grown as a goalkeeper over the course of the last two weeks,” Hayes said.
Makely was the backup goalkeeper on varsity last season and will be vying for a bigger role this year.
Bryce Grathwohl, an incoming freshman, has played center back alongside Daniel Fedun and the two are developing some chemistry, Hayes said. Fedun was a reserve on the varsity team a year ago. John Batuello, one of the few returning players from last season has brought some veteran experience to the team.
When Hayes became varsity coach, his first order of business was to announce Batuello as team captain.
“It was probably the easiest decision I’ve ever made,” he said.
In Monday’s game, both teams had some chances. In the first half the Phantoms hit two crossbars within a minute of each other. The Tuckers had a great chance in the second half when Pawel Klibisz got a breakaway, only to see his shot stopped by Bayport’s goalkeeper.
“A nil-nil draw was tough,” Hayes said, noting that the team was missing a few of its top scorers from the summer league so far.
The Tuckers return to the field Wednesday against arch rival Center Moriches to close out the summer league regular season. No matter what time of year it is, a game against the Red Devils promises to bring out the best in the Tuckers.
Hayes said the Red Devils are going through a similar facelift like the Tuckers with big roster turnover. Wednesday’s game will be an early test to see which program is ready to seize Class B this year.
“Center Moriches is a war, every single time,” Hayes said. “A lot of these kids have never experienced a true Class B derby between Center Moriches and Mattituck. It’ll be eye opening for some of them.”