Excitement was in the air. Spirits were high. And why not?
The weather was surprisingly warm — with temperatures in the mid-60s around game time — and a brilliant blue sky provided the setting as the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold high school girls lacrosse team was up for its season opener on Wednesday.
“You can’t ask for anything better,” said senior midfielder Katie Hoeg, who was referring to the weather, but might as well have been talking about how her team played.
The Tuckers clearly felt at home at their new home field at Mattituck High School. They had played their first six varsity seasons at the site of the former Cutchogue West Elementary School before making the move to Mattituck for this season.
As much as they may like their new home, the Tuckers had to like the way they christened the new season even better. Looking like they haven’t skipped a beat since last season’s run to the Suffolk County Class C semifinals, the Tuckers looked sharp, winning the first four draws and stringing together the first seven goals in a 17-6 non-league romp over Riverhead. By halftime the score was 11-1.
The question was asked: Are the Tuckers, with 10 returning starters from an 11-6 team, better than they were last year?
“We won’t know until we’re truly tested, but gut feeling, I feel like we are better than last year,” answered coach Matt Maloney.
A heavy dose of Hoegs helped the Tuckers get off to a winning start. Five Hoegs — a mix of sisters and cousins — are on the team, and Hoegs scored Mattituck’s first nine goals. Seven of those goals were also assisted by Hoegs.
By the end, Katie Hoeg, who is bound for the University of North Carolina, had picked up seven assists to go with four goals and five ground balls.
“She loves to share the ball,” Maloney said. “She knows like in crunch time when we need her, she’s our girl, she’s our go-to girl, but she loves to get her team involved. … If you make the right cut, she’s going to find you.”
Hoeg said, “I like making other people look better and as a player, I like it when the other girls feel happy that they scored, so that’s always important, too.”
Playing aggressively and confidently, Mattituck basically doubled Riverhead’s output in clears (8-4), draw controls (16-8), ground balls (25-12) and shots (25-11).
Mackenzie Hoeg, Katie’s eighth-grade sister, fired in four goals to go with two assists. Another sister, freshman Riley Hoeg, had three goals and an assist, and their cousin, senior Audrey Hoeg, put up three goals and three assists. Mia Vasile-Cozzo added two goals and Jane DiGregorio had another.
Maloney also liked that he had the opportunity to play all of his field players and two of his goalies, Emily Perry and Claudia Hoeg.
“Everyone really went in there and did what they had to do,” said Katie Hoeg.
Riverhead (0-2) received a hat trick from Kayla Kielbasa, two goals from her sister, Meghan Kielbasa, a goal from Courtney Troyan and two assists from Alyssa Romer.
Many of the Tuckers play year-round, participating in open gyms and a winter league in the offseason. Since the Tuckers lost to Mount Sinai in the county semifinals last year, “we never put our sticks down,” Katie Hoeg said. “We kept working hard.”
Photo caption: Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s Chelsea Marlborough, left, and Riverhead’s Courtney Troyan contest a draw during Wednesday’s non-league game at Mattituck High School. (Credit: Garret Meade)