The swing of emotions came in an instant.
For the briefest moment, the Mattituck girls soccer team appeared to break through against Center Moriches in overtime of a scoreless game Tuesday afternoon. Freshman Claire Gatz drilled a ball from inside the box into the right corner of the net. But before the celebration could begin, the referee blew the play dead. A Mattituck player in front of Gatz had knocked a Center Moriches defender to the ground, allowing Gatz the room to shoot.
The foul negated the goal.
Less than a minute later, the Red Devils were celebrating, and this time for real.
A goal in the 89th minute of the Class B semifinal at Mattituck High School lifted the defending champion Red Devils to a 1-0 win to set up a rematch of last year’s county championship with a matchup Friday against top-seeded Babylon.
It was the first goal for the Red Devils (9-7-1) in three games against the Tuckers, who were held scoreless for the third time in the past four games.
Center Moriches senior Paige Volkmann delivered the game-winning goal on a play set up by a free kick near the left sideline. Senior Casey Luongo sent the ball into the box, where it deflected off Taylor Brennan and to the feet of Volkmann, who had a clear lane to shoot.
“It’s such a great feeling,” said Center Moriches coach Sara Sullivan. “When I saw that Paige had the ball close to the six, I knew it was coming.”
Volkmann, a team captain, has been one of the team’s top goal scorers all season, Sullivan said.
“She’s been stepping up a lot this season,” she said. “She’s just a great athlete.”
The second-seeded Tuckers still had a chance after surrendering the late goal. Overtime starts with two 10-minute periods, so the Tuckers had about 11 minutes to try for an equalizer. The Tuckers had a decent chance with an indirect kick in front of the right sideline but couldn’t turn it into a shot on goal.
Mattituck coach Rafael Morais said once the team falls down a goal, it becomes an all-out push.
“At that point it’s not about soccer anymore,” he said. “It’s how can you get the ball in the back of the net.”
The Tuckers opened the game playing into the wind and the Red Devils controlled play for much of the start. But the tide began to shift late in the first half and the Tuckers controlled possession better in the second half. But still opportunities for both teams were few.
Neither goalkeeper faced too big a test throughout regulation. One of the best chances for the Red Devils came in the final minute of regulation when Sam Gangi had an open net from the right side but didn’t have a great angle and shot wide left.
The Tuckers had a direct kick in the first overtime period that set up a corner kick, but it didn’t lead to a shot on goal.
“These are the kind of games you get in when you play big teams and rivalries,” Morais said. “It could go either way. You cannot sleep a second because the ball might end up in the back of the net.”
As the Mattituck players huddled together after a disappointing finish to the season, smiles began to break through amid the tears. The Tuckers finish the year 10-5-2 and will return all but five players next season.
“I’m proud of the girls for making it this far,” Morais said. “And I’m only looking forward to next year.”
As a first-year coach at Mattituck, Morais said it took a bit of an adjustment at the beginning of the year for both himself and the players.
“From the mid-season up, I think we did an amazing job,” he said. “The seniors stepped up and brought us this far.”
It was the final game for Corinne Reda, Alya Ayoub, Amy Macaluso and Johanna Pedone.
Sullivan the Tuckers were strong in the midfield, led by Reda. And the Red Devils were also concerned with what Gatz could do, she said.
“We played very strong defensively,” she said, “and then something clicked with us. It just worked.”
Top photo caption: Mattituck senior Amy Macaluso serves the ball toward the box on a free kick. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)