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Boys Soccer: Tuckers find goals hard to come by

Forget for a moment win-loss records, standings and playoff scenarios. Sometimes a team just needs a win to boost morale and build confidence.

That’s something the Mattituck High School boys soccer team could sure use these days.

This losing thing is not something the Tuckers are really accustomed to. No doubt about it, though, Mattituck, with its proud history, has hit hard times.

In short, what does Mattituck need the most right now?

“Goals,” striker Axel Rodriguez answered. “We need goals to get more wins and to try and get into the playoffs.”

And getting into the playoffs could be a challenge. That’s a thought that would have been nearly unthinkable not too long ago.

Not much has been going Mattituck’s way this season. Perhaps no better illustration of that was seen than in Tuesday’s game against visiting Babylon.

Babylon’s Louis Ferrigno was working near the left endline in the 20th minute when he drove a ball that deflected off the leg of Mattituck’s Bryce Grathwohl. The ball sailed high over the head of goalkeeper James Jacobs before finding its place in the far corner of the goal. It was enough to bring Babylon, a fellow Class B team, its first win of the season.

Final score: Babylon 1, Mattituck 0.

“Being in this [Class] A league, it’s a tough schedule for us and Mattituck,” Babylon coach Dennis McGovern said. He added, “For us this is like a playoff win because we need to do well against the B schools to be considered for the playoffs.”

Mattituck’s fifth loss in six games left it with a 2-6 record, 1-4 in Suffolk County League VII.

“It’s frustrating from a coaching perspective because you can’t fault the effort of the kids,” Mattituck coach Will Hayes said. “The defense is playing very well. The goal the other team scored, when he hits the ball off of somebody’s shin and it floats through the air and the wind blows it into the back of the net, the goalkeeper can’t do anything. The defender did his job because he got the block.”

Mattituck was shut out for the third time this season despite earning nine corner kicks to Babylon’s two and outshooting the Panthers, 15-9. The Tuckers have registered eight goals in eight games, led by three from Rodriguez and two by Alp Kilinc.

Mattituck midfielder Tommy Sullivan said the Tuckers need more composure in front of the opposing goal.

“We’re definitely getting a lot of chances,” he said. “I believe that the harder you work, I guess you could say, the more luck you get. They did work hard, but I believe that we worked harder. We moved the ball better. I believe that we were the better team, but in the end we didn’t get the result we wanted because we didn’t get the finishes, we didn’t get the ball on target, we didn’t get it in the net.”

With Hurricane Jose making its way north, much of the match was played in a windy deluge that made for a slick playing surface.

Babylon (1-3-2, 1-3-1), which graduated eight starters from its defending league champion team, nearly took a 1-0 lead earlier when Alex Reyes struck a shot that glanced off the right goalpost.

Mattituck missed a number of opportunities. A Grathwohl shot was cleared off the Babylon goal line by Gavin McGetrick. Jack Kitz’s long-range, dangerously skidding shot was parried aside nicely by Babylon goalkeeper Noah Kowalewsky, who had a strong game, making six saves. A golden opportunity presented itself when Bryan Soto rounded Kowalewsky and knocked a ball across the goalmouth where the onrushing Kilinc just missed finishing it, holding his head in disbelief.

“We have a lot of games where we are generating a great deal of opportunities to score,” Hayes said. “We’re getting in the positions to score, we’re shooting, we’re finding the goalkeeper or putting it wide. We’re generating the opportunities but not finishing.”

So, what does Mattituck need to turn things around?

“They need the breaks to go their way,” Hayes said. “They need a goal off of somebody’s shin that loops over a goalkeeper. They need a rub of the green and they need some luck, and hard work generates luck, and they’re working hard. It’s just a matter of time before the tough breaks go the other way.”

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Photo caption: Mattituck’s Bryce Grathwohl serving a ball forward before Babylon’s Alex Reyes could close in on him. (Credit: Bob Liepa)