First they survived, and then they thrived.
That was the interesting path Mattituck/Southold took to its first high school girls lacrosse state championship.
Bronxville has made an indelible mark on the eight-year history of Mattituck’s program. A year ago to the day after Bronxville handed Mattituck a defeat in the state Class C semifinals, the teams met again Saturday, on the same SUNY/Cortland field, with the state Class D title at stake. This time Mattituck came away with the result it was looking for.
The Tuckers, with superb play from their zone defense, won their first state championship in stunningly one-sided fashion, 12-1. It was the fewest goals ever allowed in a state final since the state tournament began in 1995.
“They played the best game I’ve seen them play,” Matt Maloney, in his fourth year as Mattituck’s coach, told reporters. “They played a near flawless game.”
Francesca Vasile-Cozzo, who assisted on four goals in addition to scoring one herself, said, “I think we proved ourselves today.”
Jane DiGregorio had two goals and two assists. Mackenzie Hoeg, named the tournament MVP, put up two goals and one assist as did her sister, Riley Hoeg, and Kaitlin Tobin. Maddie Schmidt also scored twice.
Rachel Janis and Chelsea Marlborough also found the net for Mattituck (15-5).
Mackenzie Hoeg finished the year with 51 goals and 32 assists while Riley Hoeg totaled 39 goals and 39 assists.
“It was one of those games where we all just wanted it just as much as the next person,” Vasile-Cozzo said. “We came out and just did it.”
Mattituck’s stubborn starting defense of Alex Beebe, Ashley Burns, Brianna Fox and Lauren Zuhoski limited Bronxville (18-5) to only two first-half shots, none of which were on goal. Claudia Hoeg, who made a save with two seconds to go Friday to wrap up a 7-6 semifinal victory over South Jefferson, didn’t have much to do Saturday. Alex Talbot replaced Claudia Hoeg in goal at the start of the second half and made five saves.
“I knew this was my last time playing ever, so I just had to bring it home and try as hard as I could to stop every shot,” said Talbot, a senior.
“We did great,” Zuhoski said. “We worked on every ground ball that was down. Every person that had the ball, we were pressuring hard, so we knew what to do.”
When informed of the defensive record his team set, Maloney said: “Wow! That’s impressive. That’s a testament to that defense. Those kids have been together for at least two years as a group. A lot of times they make adjustments on their own.”
Talk of a possible shutout ended when Bronxville’s Anneke Pulkkinen fired in her 37th goal of the year off a pass from Charlotte Cagliostro, making it 8-1 with 10 minutes, 18 seconds left.
“As a team we pride ourselves on our defense and as a defensive unit we are all friends,” said Beebe, who was named to the all-tournament team along with Burns, DiGregorio and Zuhoski. “We got each other’s backs at all times. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and our communication is always there.”
The triumph came with a side order of revenge. Bronxville had lost three straight state Class C semifinals before becoming a state runner-up last year. The Broncos defeated Mattituck last year when the Tuckers made their first state semifinal appearance.
Mattituck was assertive and aggressive from the opening draw, bringing the game to the Bronxville goal area.
Asked how he fired his team up, Maloney answered: “I didn’t have to do much. They knew the moment.”
It has been quite a rise for Mattituck since the early days of the program when the Tuckers had to run sprints every time they dropped a pass in practice. The Tuckers won eight games through their first four years, according to laxpower.com, before this rise that led to a state title.
After the game Beebe, DiGregorio and Marlborough, carrying a bucket full of ice water, tried to sneak up behind Maloney. The coach knew it was coming, but for the first time this day, a Tucker put up no defense. He let the celebratory shower happen. After all, how often does one win a state championship?
Top photo caption: Mattituck/Southold coach Matt Maloney receives the ceremonial water cooler dump from Jane DiGregorio and Alex Beebe after the team’s championship win Saturday in Cortland. (Credit: Bob Liepa)