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Girls Soccer: Tuckers can’t topple unbeaten Babylon

If there is a Suffolk County League VII girls soccer team that can overcome the Babylon juggernaut, the squad hasn’t stepped forward yet.

The Panthers claimed another victim Thursday afternoon, registering a 4-1 home victory over Mattituck.

The result left Babylon (12-0, 12-0) unscathed while the Tuckers (10-3, 10-3) had their eight-game winning streak snapped. Their last defeat? At home to the Panthers on Sept. 9.

“We have definitely played better soccer than what we showed tonight,” Mattituck coach Stephen Lirosi said.

Babylon, the defending county Class B champion, has been difficult to beat. It has outscored the opposition, 62-7.

“They’re the most difficult competition we’ve seen all season,” center back and co-captain Chelsea Marlborough said. “It’s definitely a challenge, but I think it’s good for us as a team if we want to get better. If we want to be a team like that, we have to see teams like that.”

Added Lirosi: “In the grand scheme of it all, we did definitely give them a better soccer game than they maybe have seen in the past. But it was not our best showing. So, back to the practice field tomorrow.”

The Panthers struck within a three-minute span in the opening half to grab a two-goal advantage.

First, senior Olivia Maldonado lifted the hosts into the lead with the first of her two goals, firing a shot into the lower right corner past goalkeeper Sarah Santacroce (10 saves) with 14 minutes and 18 seconds remaining in the half.

Then senior forward Val Velez doubled the margin, latching onto a Maldonado through ball to tally her 11th goal this season with 11:24 to go.

Marlborough pulled one back for Mattituck, striking a 35-yard free kick that she lofted into the upper left corner out of the reach of keeper Grace Malley with 9:39 left. The goal ended the Panthers’ shutout streak at four games.

“I know I have a leg. That’s something that I rely on as a player,” Marlborough said. “I saw I was in good shooting range. I just went for it, upper 90. That’s what we’re always taught.”

Still within striking distance in the second half, Mattituck could not come any closer. Maldonado gave Babylon some breathing room by converting a free kick of her own from just outside the penalty area for a 3-1 lead and her team-best 14th goal of the season with 17:12 to go in the game.

Sophie Ryan closed out the scoring with a bullet of a shot with 13:30 left.

The Tuckers hope to get a third shot at Babylon. According to the Section XI website, the Class B playoff brackets would most likely have second-seeded team (Mattituck) vs. the third seed (Center Moriches) on Oct. 24. The winner would meet Babylon on Oct. 27.

Marlborough would love to play Babylon again.

“Any day, any day, any day. I would love to play them — or any other team,” she said.

Lirosi agreed. “It’s going to happen. It’s definitely going to happen,” he said. “They’re a good team, we’re a good team.”