Now there are no ifs, ands or buts. Mattituck/Southold is headed into the high school boys lacrosse playoffs.
An 11-7 loss at Port Jefferson on Wednesday had raised some question about the playoffs being in Mattituck’s near future. So the Tuckers did what they had to do Friday to erase that doubt. They beat Bellport, 12-4, in the final regular-season game for both teams.
“We’re in,” Mattituck coach John Amato declared afterward.
When the playoff brackets are released, Mattituck (10-6, 9-5 Suffolk County Division II) expects to be in the Suffolk Class D final that will be played May 29 at Islip High School.
Mattituck goalie Shawn Howell felt the urgency to win.
“With the loss against Port Jeff,” he said, “it was a little iffy if we were going to make it to the playoffs or not, so we took this game as a playoff game and a must-win.”
Mattituck reached the playoffs three years in a row before missing out on the postseason last year. The Tuckers are 0-2 in county finals and want to get rid of that zero.
“They want to be the first Mattituck team to win the Suffolk County championship,” Amato said. “Their mindset is getting there is not good enough.”
Mattituck showed its determination Friday. After a bumpy beginning that saw Bellport (6-10, 6-8) take a 3-2 lead, Mattituck reeled off six straight goals — including two by Max Kruszeski — for an 8-3 lead. The Tuckers’ defense clamped down and did not allow a goal for the final 16 minutes, 36 seconds of the Senior Day game, played in brilliant sunshine.
Mattituck blew a four-goal lead in the loss to Port Jefferson, but wasn’t about to let something like that happen again.
Some good faceoff work by Parker Sheppard and Dane Reda helped. As did Howell’s goaltending behind a defensive line of Jacob Dominy, Riley Peterson and Colby Suglia. “They’re amazing; they’re light’s out,” said Howell, who wasn’t too bad himself, making 10 saves.
It was the final game at Mattituck High School for Howell and the team’s four other seniors: Ryan Herman, Justin Tobin, Dominy and Peterson.
Not that Peterson put much thought into that beforehand.
“No, I really didn’t,” he said. “I didn’t put much thought into anything before the game. It was to get the win and get out of it alive. We really needed to just pull all the way through and not let the wheels fall off.”
That didn’t happen, thanks in part to the efforts of people like Reda (three goals, four assists), Kruszeski (three goals, one assist), Tobin (one goal, three assists) and Herman (two goals, one assist). In addition, Ethan Schmidt scored twice and Greg Hauser had a goal and an assist. Kruszeski, a junior attack, has 64 goals and 23 assists for the season and is among the leaders in points in the county.
“They moved the ball, they shared the rock, and they just had fun,” said Amato.
Robert Zahralban, Casey Romano, Anthony Deiters and Curren Johnson scored for Bellport, which outshot Mattituck, 20-15.
Bellport committed seven penalties, worth 5:30 on the clock. Mattituck made the Clippers pay with Kruszeski’s third goal of the day, on a two-man advantage, and a man-up strike by Reda for his third goal of the game.
Amato spoke highly of his seniors.
“They do the right thing when no one’s looking,” he said. “They have integrity. They care about the team more than themselves. They’re very unselfish and they just want to do this thing.”
By that he meant win a county title. That’s item No. 1 on Mattituck’s to-do list.
Peterson said, “As seniors it’s going to be our last shot at it.”
Photo caption: midfielder Dane Reda gets off a pass to teammate Ryan Herman for Mattituck/Southold’s first goal despite pressure from Bellport defender Bill Raymond. (Credit: Bob Liepa)