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Girls Soccer: Tuckers advance on PKs to county final

As she walked toward the north end of the Mattituck High School soccer field to take a vital penalty kick Wednesday, Halle Foster was a bundle of nerves.

Not only was it her first penalty kick in competition, it was for the game-winner of the Suffolk County Class B semifinal match.

“It was very like nerve-racking,” Foster said. “I just wanted to take my time and compose myself.”

Just as she was to take her shot, the nearby Mattituck Fire Department’s siren blasted on. That would have unhinged many players, but not this sophomore.

“I was literally not even there,” said Foster, who did not hear the blaring siren.

She deposited the ball into the right side, past goalkeeper Allison Carpenter, to lift the Tuckers to 4-3 shootout win for a rare victory over their League VII rivals.

“Obviously, the nervousness is one thing, given the situation,” Mattituck coach Stephen LiRosi said. “But you know what? Walking up, just the way she struck the ball, you can tell she knew what she was doing. The way she connected with the ball, that’s the confidence. ‘Oh, I’m nervous.’ No you’re not.”

Nerves turned to celebration for the Tuckers (13-4).

“It was just like a burst of energy,” Foster said. “I was just so happy and excited. I didn’t know what to say.”

The teams had played to a 1-1 draw after 110 minutes — 80 minutes of regulation and another half-hour of overtime.

“We played so much my legs are shaking,” said midfielder Claire Gatz, who played the entire way while scoring Mattituck’s regulation goal and adding a penalty kick in the tiebreaker.

Elvira Puluc and Mackenzie Daly also converted their shootout attempts. Chelsea Marlborough sent her try over the crossbar.

Goalkeeper Sarah Santacroce made a two-handed save on Maddie Juliano’s on the Red Devils’ second attempt and helped force freshman Lola Kochanskyj — she tallied a goal in the first half — shoot over the bar. Sydney Passaro, Arianna Alvarez and Anna Ricci put their shots away for the visitors.

Center Moriches (11-7) was fortunate to be playing at all. Section XI allowed the Red Devils to participate in the playoffs even though school athletic officials mistakenly scheduled 17 games, one over the regular-season limit.

The Red Devils took advantage of their fortune by capitalizing on a Mattituck defensive error in the back with 22:17 remaining in the opening half. Kiersten Furhmann took a shot and Kochanskyj slotted home the rebound past Santacroce.

“That miscommunication, if anything it shows the girls how even just not communicating for one second, it will cost you the game,” LiRosi said.

The first half turned into a frustrating affair for the Tuckers, who came close several times, but could not put one past Carpenter, although Alex Beebe rammed a shot off the crossbar with 35 seconds left in the half. Puluc hammered an attempt off the bar with 5:50 to go in the first overtime.

“It was very frustrating,” Foster said. “I could hear that we were starting to get mad at each other. That’s never a good sign. We just all had a talk at halftime. ‘We need to get together. We can’t be fighting against each other now. It’s not the time. We really need a win. Center has always beaten us at this game.’ ”

Gatz said: “We talked to the team and we got each other going. Talking about the seniors, that we didn’t want it to be the last game as a team. We want to work together, and we played for each other.”

Gatz made sure the Tuckers pulled even, converting a breakaway with 24:54 remaining in regulation from 25 yards for her team-best 14th goal this season. “She played it very nicely,” said LiRosi.

Mattituck’s prize will be a third meeting with League VII champion Babylon (16-0) in the Class B final at Islip High School on Friday night. The Panthers defeated the Tuckers twice during the regular season — 3-0 and 4-1.

“We can’t do the same thing,” LiRosi said. “We got to do different things, whether if it’s what you saw today or something else that we come up with between now and then, but we need to change our attack for Babylon.”

Added Gatz, “We have to be very mentally prepared and really work well as a unit, play as hard as we can and put everything on the field.”