Friday the 13th is regarded as an ominous date for some, portending misfortune, but Friday the 13th, 2018, was a great day for Max Kruszeski.
Kruszeski, after all, didn’t have to worry about luck. Pure talent was enough.
With his winning blend of athleticism and lacrosse skill, Kruszeski matched his career high with eight goals in Mattituck/Southold’s 15-6 trouncing of Hampton Bays in a Suffolk County Division II game in Mattituck. The junior attack/midfielder, who also had four assists, rang up eight goals against Southampton in the first game this season.
“He’s a really good player,” coach John Amato said. “He’s a dynamic player. I’m just proud of the way he makes other kids around him better and he does what he has to for the team and he kind of leads by example, which is good.”
Kruszeski, who has started for the varsity Tuckers since he was an eighth-grader, has drawn interest from colleges, Amato said, and it’s easy to see why. Kruszeski, one of the team’s six returning starters, has already virtually equalled his 2017 totals of 31 goals and nine assists. With his 30 goals and 10 assists, he is tied for the county lead at 40 points with Half Hollow Hills West’s Christian Mule (30 goals, 10 assists) and Elwood/John Glenn’s Justin Tiernan (25, 15), according to Newsday.
“He’s a good player,” sophomore attack Ethan Schmidt said. “We really need him to step up. He’s done that well. He’s the captain on our team and he just leads us.”
It’s no secret that Kruszeski knows how to put the ball in the net, but he has also shown that he can set teammates like Schmidt and Dane Reda up for goals.
“Now he’s more of the initiator whereas in the past, like last year, he was more of a goal scorer,” Amato said. “So now he’s starting the offense instead of finishing the offense.”
Naturally, with the sort of statistics he has been putting up, Kruszeski has drawn the attention of opposing defenses. That has been an adjustment for him.
“It’s a little tough sometimes,” he said. “I get locked off by teams and it’s definitely an eye-opener because I have to change my game up a little bit, but other than that, I’ve just been flowing with the guys on the team. They’re doing a great job of finding me when I’m open.”
That was the case Friday when Kruszeski scored or assisted on seven of Mattituck’s first eight goals. It was 8-0 before Patrick Gilbert put Hampton Bays on the scoreboard with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half.
“You know, once one falls, you get the confidence and you get another and another,” said Kruszeski.
Schmidt, a first-year varsity player, didn’t have a bad day himself, ringing up four goals and one assist. He is following in the footsteps of two older brothers — Tim (Wagner) and Ben (West Virginia) — who had played for the Tuckers and are now playing college lacrosse.
Parker Sheppard (one goal, three assists) and Reda (one goal, two assists) were also involved in multiple goals. It was the first career goal for Sheppard, who combined with Reda to win 17 of 21 faceoffs. Colby Suglia also scored for Mattituck (4-4, 2-3).
Kruszeski, Schmidt and Suglia each controlled a team-leading five loose balls.
Hampton Bays (1-6, 1-5), which had only three substitutes available, received three goals and one assist from Andrew Calderon. Gavin Grismer had a goal and an assist, with Matt Lligui also scoring.
“When we all do our jobs together, I think we have a really high ceiling and a lot of potential,” said Kruszeski.
The Tuckers are young, but they have a great opportunity before them. Some see Babylon and Mattituck on a collision course in the county Class D final.
“It’s probably going to come down to us and Babylon,” Amato said. “We both graduated a lot, but I feel it’s who can rebuild faster?
“Right now we’re not as good as we’re going to be in the end, and I know that. We got to see where people play well and just find our chemistry.”
He continued: “I keep telling them, we don’t have to be great right now. We have to be great in May. That’s when it needs to come all together.”
Photo caption: Max Kruszeski led the charge for Mattituck/Southold with his eight goals and four assists against Hampton Bays. (Credit: Bob Liepa)