The Mattituck High School boys soccer team has its work cut out for itself this season.
Every team in League VII reached either the Suffolk County Class A or Class B playoffs last season. That includes Class A power Elwood/John Glenn and Class B champion Center Moriches.
Last year League VII was composed of Class B and C teams. This year the degree of difficulty got more much difficult because it is loaded with Class A and B teams.
“I expect it to be very, very competitive,” coach Will Hayes said. “It will be kind of a maelstrom.”
The Class A schools include Southampton, Hampton Bays and Wyandanch while Mattituck and Babylon round out the Class B squads.
Hayes, who is optimistic about the Tuckers (9-7-1 last year), has seven seniors who have been with him since he took over in 2015.
Striker Alex Rodriguez, who enjoyed a sensational sophomore season (15 goals, two assists), struggled last year (three goals, five assists).
“Part of that was that he was a known commodity and teams were looking to stifle him,” Hayes said. “We’re going to have to ride him if we’re going to be successful. He’s in a good place.”
Three seniors are keys — midfield kingpin Tom Sullivan and Jason Scalia, who was moved to center back to play alongside Justin Lake.
“He’s a good mentor for the younger players,” Hayes said of Sullivan.
Scalia has “matured a great deal the last two seasons,” he added. “He’s a leader. He holds other people accountable.”
Lake “is like the energizer bunny. He never stops running,” Hayes said.
Junior James Jacobs, back for his third varsity season with 35 starts, is one of the most experienced goalkeepers around. “He’s seasoned,” Hayes said.
Southold, which rode a late-season revival to the county Class C final, is rebuilding.
“We’re hoping to be competitive to earn a spot in the playoffs,” said coach Andrew Sadowski, whose teams have participated in the postseason 21 consecutive times. “Last year we proved the playoffs are a new season.”
That’s when Southold (7-11) upset top-seeded Stony Brook in the semifinals before losing to Pierson/Bridgehampton on a goal with 3 minutes, 49 seconds left in the final.
The First Settlers lost eight players to graduation. Sadowski will rely on two seniors to lead the team — midfielder Ryan Hermann and defender Joe Berry — in League VIII. Two other seniors — defender Mario Contreras and forward Zach Grathwohl — are expected to see plenty of action.
So will senior defender Edwin Martinez, senior midfielder Luis Herrera, junior midfielder John Bauman and sophomores Stephen Schill, a defender, and Joe Silvestro, a forward.
The younger players are accustomed to Sadowski’s system because he trains the varsity and junior varsity teams together during the preseason.
“The young boys are immersed into the program,” said Sadowski, entering his 24th season as the dean of Suffolk County coaches. “They’re also hard workers.”
League VIII coaches selected Greenport to finish in the middle of the pack, which is fine with new coach Sean Charters.
“I think we’ll shock teams, coming back from a 3-11-1 year,” he said.
That’s because the young Porters enter the season with plenty of experience. They’re loaded with juniors.
Charters will rely on junior center back Mateo Arias, who starts his fifth varsity year and will anchor the defense with Cristian Lopez.
Senior co-captain Jason Cruz will help form a solid backline while another senior co-captain, Jacob Kahn, will hold together the midfield along with sophomore Drew Wolf. “He’s probably the most reliable guy I have,” said Charters, referring to Cruz.
Junior William Chapeton (team-high five goals last year) will start at striker. Freshman Kevin Azama, who filled the nets with his junior high team in 2016, will partner up front.
“Just watching him at junior high school last year, I know he can score goals,” said Charters, who played with Azama’s uncle, high-scoring forward Orlando Lopez, on the Porters. “I think it runs in the family.
“We need to find that one guy who will put it in the net.”
Charters has liked what he has seen. “We’ve had players playing together spring and summer,” he said. “They’re going to know where they are on the field.”
Photo caption: Mattituck senior center back Jason Scalia is a leader who holds teammates accountable, said coach Will Hayes. (Credit: Garret Meade)