The Pleasantville Panthers had their pawprints all over this one.
Except, perhaps, for the first quarter.
For Mattituck/Southold, the start to its first ever New York State Class D semifinal was as good as could be hoped for. The Tuckers shot out to leads of 2-0 and 3-1. Parker Sheppard was controlling faceoffs and Shawn Howell was making saves.
But Pleasantville, which had lost three straight state semifinals to Cold Spring Harbor, lived up to its impressive record and No. 1 ranking in the New York State Sportswriters Association Class D poll. A 10-1 second-quarter run sent the Panthers on to a 20-7 victory Wednesday at the University at Albany.
Declan McDermott brought Pleasantville (20-1) four goals, helping the Panthers to Saturday’s state final against Chenango Forks or Penn Yan Academy at St. John Fisher College in Rochester.
Max Kruszeski fired in three goals, giving him 64 for the year, while Ethan Schmidt added two for Mattituck (12-7).
Those first three Mattituck goals by Schmidt, Kruszeski and Greg Hauser proved to be a mirage, though.
“We kind of caught them offguard in the beginning of the game, but from there I think their team kind of took it,” Mattituck coach John Amato said. “We ran into a juggernaut. They have 12 seniors who have been playing together since they were freshmen.”
“They figured us out on the faceoffs, then they kind of pressured us,” he continued, adding, “Their offense is phenomenal. Everyone can dodge and shoot.”
Amato knew Mattituck faced a tough challenge from Pleasantville, but the Panthers were even better than he thought they would be, he said. “They’re going to be the state champion.”
Mattituck’s game plan was to win faceoffs, hold the ball and limit Pleasantville’s possessions. Much easier said than done.
“A team like that, it’s hard to execute any kind of a game plan,” said Amato.
Wednesday’s defeat “doesn’t take anything away from our guys and what we’ve done this year,” Amato said. “I’m extremely proud of them because they made school history, winning our first county and Long Island championships. I think the experience this year really set the bar high for Mattituck lacrosse. It sets the bar high and I think the younger group is going to make next year’s team even more hungry.”
Mattituck, ranked 10th in Class D by the state’s sportswriters, bids farewell to five seniors: attack Ryan Herrmann, midfielder Justin Tobin, defender Jacob Dominy, defender Riley Peterson and Howell.
But Kruszeski, a junior, will return next year along with six starting sophomores.
“Throughout this whole run, I felt that our team just wanted it and they never let up,” Amato said. “They never didn’t believe. They just believed the whole time and they weren’t expecting losing.”
Photo caption: Mattituck senior Ryan Herrmann pictured in the Tuckers’ Long Island Championship game last Saturday. (Credit: Bill Landon)