That may have summed up John Amato’s initial reaction when he heard that New York State’s high school boys lacrosse system was to be divided this year into four classes instead of three, as it had been. It means Class D has been added to Classes A, B and C. While Amato’s Mattituck/Greenport/Southold team remains a Class C team, the playing field in that class became notably tougher.
“I was a little bummed, but I was also like, you can’t change it, you just got to do your best,” said Amato, who takes a 27-21 record into his fourth season as Mattituck’s coach.
What it means is that Mattituck (12-5 last year), which lost to Babylon in the last two Suffolk County Class C finals, will find the path to the championship game considerably more difficult, with powerful Class C teams like Shoreham-Wading River, Elwood/John Glenn, Miller Place and Mount Sinai in the mix.
“Now we’ll get to see where we are,” Amato said. “For right now, it is what it is and you can’t use it as an excuse. We have to look at it as a positive challenge that we’re going to face.”
Mattituck, seeded 20th out of 22 teams in Suffolk Division II, is built around 10 seniors. “They do a lot,” Amato said. “They’re a big part of who we are.”
Among them is Rob Kruszeski, who was the Suffolk Class C Goalie of the Year in 2016, making 129 saves and posting a 7.01 goals against average.
“Rob gives us a huge advantage,” Amato said. “He’s like having a coach on the field. He has the ability to save the ball and make nice outlet passes, so that helps the transition. He saves the ball, he stops the goal, then he helps push for the fastbreak, which is why we like to play fast.”
For offensive production, the Tuckers will look to Rob’s brother, sophomore midfielder/attacker Max Kruszeski (25 goals, 22 assists), as well as senior attacker Thomas Hoeg (20 goals, 19 assists) and senior midfielder Tyler Seifert (20 goals, 10 assists). Two other seniors, defenseman Gage Suglia (28 ground balls) and midfielder Matt Mauceri, were starters last year.
Five other seniors are back: attacker Ben Schmidt, midfielders Josh Prager and Sean Robbins, and defensemen Connor McKeon and Matt DeSimone.
The team’s new additions consist of five juniors (midfielders Justin Tobin and Ryan Herman, defensemen Riley Peterson and Jacob Dominy and goalie Shawn Howell) and two freshmen (midfielder Dane Reda and defenseman Colby Suglia). The Suglias are brothers.
Mattituck lost its top faceoff player, Dylan Marlborough, to graduation. Amato said the faceoffs will be handled by committee.
“Last year’s team, we were deeper as far as the bench,” Amato said. “This year we don’t have that flexibility, but this year’s team has a very good lacrosse IQ and a very strong character. … We have smaller numbers, but everyone plays a role in the team’s success.”
“I really think that we’re going to shock a lot of people,” he continued. “The program has taken off. The last three years we made three very big steps. … This is the year where we need to take another step forward, and to make the playoffs in a competitive league in Class C would be a huge step for us.”
Photo caption: Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s Rob Kruszeski, (129 saves, 7.01 goals against average) was recognized as the top goalie in Suffolk County Class C last year. (Credit: Garret Meade)