Call it the life of Riley.
Well, the new lacrosse life of Riley Hoeg.
Although she always had scoring ability, Hoeg was known to Mattituck/Southold primarily for her passing skills. That has changed. Hoeg has been asked to take on the role of a goal scorer, and the junior attack/midfielder has obliged.
Hoeg smiled when she was asked the silly question of whether she likes scoring.
“I like it, yeah,” she said. “It’s like a confidence-booster.”
Her confidence must be soaring. Through eight games, Hoeg has scored 17 goals and assisted on 16 others, leading Mattituck in both categories.
“Riley’s been one of our rocks on offense,” coach Matt Maloney said. “She is right at the top with goals and she’s our leader in assists. Her vision is excellent. She sets up numerous players. If there’s a tight lane, she can squeeze it to them.
“She’s a dual threat. She’s able to attack the goal and she’s able to set so many other players up. She’s been a great asset for us. She’s been around the game so long that her IQ is so high.”
No wonder. Lacrosse is in the family. Hoeg’s older sister Katie, Mattituck’s all-time leading scorer, plays for North Carolina. Her younger sister Mackenzie is a sophomore midfielder/attack for Mattituck, and her cousin Claudia is a junior goalie for the Tuckers. In addition, her father James is Mattituck’s assistant coach.
Riley added to her goal tally Wednesday with a hat trick from four shots in a 9-6 loss to first-place West Babylon in a Suffolk County Division II game in Cutchogue. Two of Riley’s goals were assisted by Mackenzie.
Hannah Heller rang up four goals and one assist while Kayla Downey added three goals and one assist for Class B West Babylon (7-1, 7-1). In addition, Emily Heller won 11 of 17 draws and collected a game-high nine loose balls.
Class D Mattituck (5-3, 4-3) hasn’t lost much in recent years and clearly doesn’t like it, regardless of the quality competition West Babylon presented.
“I think they were good, but I think we kind of beat ourselves out there,” Mattituck midfielder Jane DiGregorio said. “I don’t think we played to our full potential.”
With Downey’s three goals, two by Hannah Heller and another by Emma Cantwell, West Babylon shot out to a 6-1 lead. Riley Hoeg scored on a free-position shot with 0.3 seconds left in the half to make it 6-2.
Mattituck lost starting defender Ashley Burns when she picked up her second yellow card with 69 seconds left in the first half.
“I feel like we wasted the first half,” said DiGregorio.
Mattituck made a better showing in the second half, which it opened with goals by Riley Hoeg and Chelsea Marlborough to pull to within 6-4 with 12:41 left.
But Hannah Heller then converted a pair of free-position shots within 1:34 of each other for an 8-4 lead.
Once again, Mattituck cut the deficit to two with 2:54 to go on strikes by the Hoeg sisters (the first goal assisted by Francesca Vasile-Cozzo). West Babylon, however, played the possession game well and iced it with an insurance goal by Alyssa Apuzzo with 23 seconds left.
“I still think we were better,” said Marlborough, chuckling at how that sounds. “I know that’s kind of hard to say when you don’t win, but I just know my team and I don’t think that was necessarily what we were capable of.”
Maloney said: “I felt like today we let one slip away a little bit. I thought we turned the ball over way more than we usually do and that came back to bite us.”
Riley Hoeg, an All-County player last year who this year was named among Newsday’s top 100 Long Island players, is on the road to becoming a more complete player.
“We’ve asked her to not just play behind the cage as much,” Maloney said. “Behind the cage is a big area where she gets assists from and attacks the goal, but we’ve switched some things around, had her attack the defense from the top as well and try to just continue to become a complete player. The wins, losses and all that is great, but we’re really now preparing a lot of kids to play at the college level, so we want to try to make them the most complete player they can [be] when they leave here.”
Riley Hoeg said: “Last year and previous years I’ve been more of a feeder from behind and kind of just looking for those cutters, but now I’m kind of moving up top and not just down low. It’s difficult when either me or Mackenzie both get face guarded, so it gets frustrating sometimes, but overall it’s going really well.”
Her numbers don’t lie.
Photo caption: Mattituck/Southold’s Riley Hoeg (three goals) cutting back while being chased by West Babylon’s Grace Guglielmo. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)