The question of which was more annoying, the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold boys lacrosse uniforms with the digital camo numbers that were difficult to read from a distance or the tiny insects flying around in the still, humid air, was up for debate.
As for the Tuckers themselves, they might have suggested another annoyance: Center Moriches.
Third-seeded Center Moriches made life difficult for No. 2 Mattituck in a Suffolk County Class C semifinal on Tuesday. A critical shot block and clearance by defender Tristin Ireland in the frantic, dying seconds helped the Tuckers preserve an 11-10 triumph at Mattituck High School.
It wasn’t easy.
“They hung in,” Mattituck coach John Amato said. “They’re tough. They stayed poise and they got the job done.”
The eighth straight win returns Mattituck (12-4) to the county final for the second year in a row. They will play either No. 1 Babylon or No. 4 Port Jefferson for the county title on June 1 at Stony Brook University. Mattituck has a chance to do something it has never done before: Win a county championship.
“It’s something that’s important to all of us,” attacker Max Kruszeski said. “Everyone wants to win this.”
Of course, to reach the final, Mattituck had to get past Center Moriches (8-9), a team it had beaten soundly twice during the regular season, 15-7 and 17-7.
But Center Moriches coach Kevin Scott’s team was no pushover. The Red Devils, with their superb faceoff man Andrew Zito and attacker Keegan Maxwell, gave Mattituck all it could handle.
Jeff Hauser’s third goal of the game, off an assist from Tim Schmidt with 5 minutes 56 seconds left to play, was Mattituck’s final goal of the day, making it 11-7. Center Moriches applied pressure down the stretch as Maxwell pumped in his fifth goal of the game and Zito fired in a laser and then a lefthanded shot with 1:12 to go, making it a one-goal game.
“They came ready to beat us,” said Kruszeski, who had three goals.
Zito bounced a shot wide and missed the mark on another attempt before Mattituck’s Gage Suglia was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, giving Center Moriches a man advantage with 22.2 seconds left. When play resumed, Ben Hamilton started with the ball and attempted a shot that Ireland blocked. Ireland then retrieved the ground ball and threw it downfield as the final horn sounded.
The Tuckers swarmed each other in celebration.
Mattituck snapped a 5-5 tie by reeling off five straight goals during a span of 5:56 in the third quarter. Hauser started the run with a pair of goals off assists by Tyler Seifert and Ben Schmidt. Tom Hoeg then netted a pair of unassisted strikes before setting up Kruszeski.
Hoeg’s first goal, which made it 8-5, was an unusual one. Center Moriches defender Shea Beinath was running back toward his own goal when his pass was intercepted by Kruszeski, who put the ball past goalie Anthony DiBlasi (11 saves).
“We got the W, but we could have done a lot better,” said Hauser, who also had two assists.
Hauser is one of the team’s 12 seniors (nine of whom will play in college) who were recognized in a Senior Day ceremony after the game.
Zach Holmes scored twice for Mattituck and Rob Kruszeski made eight saves.
Zito had a busy day for Center Moriches, picking up three goals, two assists, 11 ground balls and winning 15 of 23 faceoffs.
Now, what about those gold uniforms with the blue trim and the difficult-to-read numbers? The Tuckers have a 2-2 record in those jerseys, including a loss to Babylon in last year’s county final. Will Mattituck wear them in next week’s final?
“I’m not sure yet,” said Amato.
Amato sounded more sure of something else. He believes the Tuckers are ready for their first county crown.
“I feel like that experience of being in the big stadium, on the big stage, now we’re ready for that,” he said. “We’re ready to handle that stage and that moment.”
Photo caption: From left, Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s Dylan Marlborough, Center Moriches’ Jerry Lewis and Mattituck’s Pete Fouchet chase after a ground ball. (Credit: Garret Meade)