Spring has sprung and a new season has begun.
Not that it felt or looked like spring. Banks of snow were piled along the sides of the girls lacrosse field at the Pulaski Sports Complex in Riverhead (with the promise of more snow to come) and temperatures were in the mid-30s. Just a few hours after spring officially arrived, Mattituck/Southold and Riverhead ushered in their own season with Tuesday’s non-league game.
Mattituck, a state semifinalist last year, trailed by a goal at halftime, but won the second half — and the game, 10-7 — no small thanks to its steadfast defense and a 7-0 surge.
Mattituck shut Riverhead out in the first 22 minutes, 44 seconds of the second half.
“We’ve down some things like that in the past,” coach Matt Maloney said. “We’ve kind of [gone] on these runs where defensively we shut teams out or allowed one goal over a whole half, so it’s nothing new for our defense. They really play as a collective unit and it’s really nice to watch.”
Megan Kielbasa bounced in an unassisted, man-up goal with 17 seconds left in the first half to give Riverhead a 4-3 edge with the first of her three goals.
Then Mattituck’s defense of Alex Beebe, Ashley Burns, Brianna Fox and Lauren Zuhoski clamped down on the Blue Waves. Mattituck’s offense, meanwhile, showed it had plenty of bite, running off seven straight goals by Julie Seifert, Riley Hoeg, Seifert again, Jane DiGregorio, Francesca Vasile-Cozzo, Kaitlin Tobin and Hoeg again. That made it 10-4 with 2:55 to go.
How did the Tuckers do it?
“Getting the turnovers in the defensive end and coming up with the draws in the middle really turned the game around for us,” said Fox.
Hoeg, a junior, registered three goals and three assists. Seifert (two goals) was Mattituck’s only other multi-goal scorer.
“At halftime we knew that we needed a spark,” said DiGregorio, who had a goal and an assist, as did Mackenzie Hoeg and Vasile-Cozzo.“We needed to just focus on the little things and work harder. If we couldn’t outplay them, then we could definitely outhustle them because I don’t think we were doing that in the first half, so we just really dug deep and made sure to work together.”
To its credit, Riverhead played hard to the end. Kayla Kielbasa picked up two of her four assists on two goals by her sister, Megan, and one by Shannon Schmidt within a span of 2:13 for the final score.
“We’re a team and we’re staying in it until the end, and we’re going to keep fighting no matter what,” Riverhead defender Katie Goodale said. “We’re a team that never really gives up.”
After Riverhead opened the game with a Delu Rizzo goal for a 1-0 lead, Mattituck replied with strikes by Mackenzie Hoeg, Chelsea Marlborough and Riley Hoeg within 2:33 of each other for a 3-1 lead.
Riverhead’s Angelina Graziano then set up Lauren Kenny before scoring herself to even things at 3-3 with 2:04 left in the first half.
With help from her friends, Mattituck goalie Claudia Hoeg was pressed to make only three saves. Her counterpart, Sofia Salgado, stopped nine shots.
“I think it could have went either way,” Riverhead coach Ashley Schandel said. “I was hoping it would have went our way, but we couldn’t handle the pressure the whole way. I think the biggest thing for Riverhead is to realize that we are a top team and we have to come out on the field with a chip on our shoulders sometimes and have that attitude.”
Mattituck, a Class D team that plays in Suffolk County Division II, and Riverhead, a Class A squad in Division I, are both anticipating good things this year.
“We have a lot of talent on this team and it goes deeper into the bench, too,” said Goodale.
Schandel believes that depth will come in handy. “We’re trying to go deeper in our lineup,” she said. “That’s going to be a big thing for us. If we can keep getting fresh legs out there, I think that’s going to be a big help for us.”
And what about Mattituck?
“I think we have a lot more to show,” DiGregorio said. “I don’t think that was our best showing. I don’t think it proves too much. I think it proves we need to work really hard and just keep working.”
Photo caption: From left, Riverhead’s Delu Rizzo, Mattituck’s Ashley Burns, Riverhead’s Katie Goodale and Mattituck’s Chelsea Marlborough contest a loose ball. (Credit: Bob Liepa)