Stephen Lirosi figured he could not be in a better situation while taking over the reins of the Mattituck High School girls soccer program.
“If there was any scenario to come into, this was the best scenario,” he said. “It’s definitely a blessing to move into an organization like Mattituck. It’s a matter of setting the pieces in motion.”
After all, the 27-year-old Lirosi inherited a program that went 8-6 last season before the Tuckers lost in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals. He replaced Rafael Morais, who left to become the St. Joseph College’s women’s head coach, and is the third Mattituck coach in as many years.
“I like our chances to win our division, based on what I’ve seen,” Lirosi said.
One of those big pieces includes senior captain and sweeper Chelsea Marlborough, who Lirosi said was “a player I’m lucky to have.” He cited Marlborough’s leadership and communication abilities.
Then there’s sophomore midfielder Claire Gatz, who is coming off a sensational season in which she was selected to the New York State Class B third team. She finished ninth in county scoring and second among Class B players with 15 goals and six assists.
“She definitely knows how to command the middle of the field,” Lirosi said. “She has a nose for the goal.”
Senior midfielder/forward Elvira Puluc might not fill the net like Gatz, but she figures to be an important piece as the team’s No. 1 distributor of the ball. “She definitely has eyes in the back of her head and around her head,” Lirosi said.
Senior captain Brianna Fox might be close to Lirosi’s heart. She plays the same position he did — outback right or left back. “She is not afraid to back down,” he said.
Lirosi likes his team’s depth. “We may have an important player go down — knock on wood — we have a deep roster,” he said.
The Tuckers kick off their season at Pierson/Bridgehampton on Friday.
This could be the year for the Southold/Greenport squad. The First Settlers boast many important players returning from a 5-9-3 team that was eliminated in the Suffolk Class C semifinals last year.
This could be the start of something very big.
“Without tipping my hand, this is as talented a group of girls for Southold/Greenport for quite some time,” coach Chris Golden said. “Barring any injuries, this team has a great opportunity to come out as Suffolk County champions.”
A bold statement, indeed, but Golden has the players to back up his remarks.
The First Settlers’ strength is on defense behind several returning seniors.
Start with goalkeeper Hayley Brigham, an all-county goalkeeper. “Any time you have an all-county goalie returning, you’re dealt a good hand,” Golden said.
Continue with a veteran and talented back line anchored by Grace Syron, a state Class C third team selection who isn’t afraid to join the attack, Annie Lincoln and Hannah Sutton. Joining them on the back four is outside back Kate Bauman.
Seniors Charlotte Allen, an outside midfielder, Brooke Averette, who can play in the back or wide midfield, and Sam Dunne also are expected to see playing time.
“We have a great core of juniors as well that will blend in with the seniors,” Golden said.
Those juniors include defenders Marie Mullen, Sabrina Basel and Kristina Worysz and midfielder Rosie Mollica.
Golden also was excited about some promising youngsters in sophomore midfielder Kaitlyn Tobin, freshman midfielder Grace Brodarick and freshman outside back Sariah Bachez-Gomez.
The First Settlers will have their first test of the season fairly early as they meet defending state Class C champion Port Jefferson in their season and league opener on Friday.
“It’s great playing them right off the bat because we’re looking for a little payback,” Golden said. “It will be a good measuring stick for us.”
Photo caption: Senior sweeper Chelsea Marlborough is one of Mattituck’s leaders. (Credit: Garret Meade)