Both the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold high school boys and girls lacrosse teams have grown by leaps and bounds over the course of their rather brief histories.
Evidence of that was seen beyond the field on Thursday, in the lobby in front of Mattituck High School’s sparkling new trophy case.
It was there, seated at a table and wearing articles of clothing from the colleges they have chosen, that four senior lacrosse players from Mattituck High School, two boys and two girls, made their college choices official by signing national letters of intent. Among them were the first two girls and the first boy from the Tuckers to sign with NCAA Division I schools.
“Now we’re making our dreams come true and today it’s official,” one of the players, Katie Hoeg, said afterward.
Cameras clicked away as the players, joined in the ceremony by their coaches, parents and school officials, put pen to paper. Hoeg and her cousin, Audrey Hoeg, are the first Division I recruits from the Tuckers’ girls team, school officials said. Katie Hoeg signed with North Carolina and Audrey Hoeg committed to William & Mary (Va.).
The first Division I recruit from the Tuckers’ boys team, Tim Schmidt, selected Wagner College. One of his teammates, Zach Holmes, signed with Dowling College, a Division II school.
“Nobody’s ever done what you did today,” Mattituck’s athletic director, Gregg Wormuth, told the players after the ceremony.
Both programs have made significant strides in a short period. The teams have each played six varsity seasons. Although the boys team started one year before the girls team, the boys took a one-year hiatus and played as a junior varsity team before their second varsity season.
Following some lean years — the boys team suffered through a 3-25 record through its first two varsity seasons, for example — both teams reached the playoffs the last two seasons. Both teams enjoyed their best seasons this past spring. The boys team registered its first playoff win, lost to Babylon in the Suffolk County Class C final and finished with an 11-3 record. The girls team also notched its first playoff win before losing to Mount Sinai in a Suffolk Class C semifinal, ending up with an 11-6 record.
Katie Hoeg acknowledged that it is headspinning how far the Tuckers have come. “I remember the first year,” she said. “We couldn’t even catch five passes in a row, and now if we miss one pass, it’s shameful.”
All four of the college-bound Tuckers recognized on Thursday have been through the lows, the losing, the coaching changes. After the ceremony, Wormuth gathered the four players together and praised them for sticking with their teams when times were tough.
“They stuck it out at a time when it would have been easy to quit,” he said. “It would have been real easy to hang it up, and it didn’t happen.”
The Hoegs, who both can play midfield or attack, are a rarity in high school sports. They are both three-time all-county players and should be six-year varsity starters by graduation day. They have been team leaders since they were seventh graders, surrounded by older players with less experience.
Katie Hoeg seemed to know for a while where she wanted to go. In the fall of her sophomore year she verbally committed to North Carolina. Her reasoning to stick with that decision was simple.
“I want to win,” she said. “That’s what drives me.”
North Carolina won its first national championship in 2013 and lost to Maryland in this year’s national final.
Tuckers coach Matt Maloney said Katie Hoeg is “college ready.” He called her “one of the best players I’ve ever coached all around in terms of athleticism and just game knowledge, lacrosse IQ — the total package.”
Audrey Hoeg will bring her talents to William & Mary, which is recognized as the second-oldest college in America. She said she had considered other schools, “but I always had William & Mary at the top of my list. That was really my first choice.”
For the past five years the Hoeg cousins have been a formidable duo that opponents have had to account for. Maloney knows that only too well. He used to coach East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson and had to worry about the Hoegs when his team played the Tuckers.
“Your game plan as a coach against them is completely tailored around them,” he said. “That’s why I think we, Mattituck, give a lot of other teams problems.”
As does Schmidt, an all-county attackman with a knack for scoring. How does he feel about being the Tuckers’ first Division I recruit?
“There’s not like a word to describe it,” he answered. “It’s exciting.”
Schmidt, who was named the League IV attackman of the year this year, said he selected Wagner in Staten Island over other schools because of its proximity to Mattituck and because he likes New York City.
“Timmy has the ability to score at any point in time,” Tuckers coach John Amato said. “He’s faced the best defensemen of every team and, regardless, he still puts up big numbers.”
Last season Schmidt totaled 61 goals and 24 assists.
Amato used to play at Dowling, which is where Holmes, a short-stick midfielder, is headed. That connection and the fact that Dowling runs a system similar to that used by the Tuckers, influenced Holmes, a three-year starter for the Tuckers who had 15 goals and 11 assists last season. “I’m definitely excited to move on to my next step and give it my best go,” he said.
Amato said: “Zach’s ability to play both offense and defense makes him very versatile. As far as a college team, he has great height, great speed, so Dowling saw it as a no-brainer because they can do so much with him.”
Summing up the occasion, Wormuth said, “This is an outstanding accomplishment.” He added, “It’s a proud moment.”
Photo: Mattituck athletic director Gregg Wormuth oversees a ceremony in which four players from the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold boys and girls lacrosse teams signed national letters of intent. The players, from left, are Tim Schmidt, Zach Holmes, Katie Hoeg and Audrey Hoeg. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)