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Girls Lacrosse: Hoeg’s save with :02 left sends Tuckers to their first state final

South Jefferson did a remarkable job of defense, face guarding Mattituck/Southold’s Riley and Mackenzie Hoeg in Friday’s New York State Class D girls lacrosse semifinal. The Hoeg sisters, who have combined for 155 points this year, were held to no points.

That’s right. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

But there was one Hoeg South Jefferson didn’t account for.

And she was the one who saved the day for Mattituck.

Claudia Hoeg, a cousin of the other two Hoegs, isn’t normally in the spotlight on a team loaded with goal scorers, athletic midfielders and rock-solid defenders. But Friday was Claudia Hoeg’s day, and in the final seconds, the junior was at her best when her team needed her most.

With Mattituck clinging to a 7-6 lead, the Tuckers turned the ball over with 15 seconds left. Following a timeout, South Jefferson began possession deep in its own end. The Spartans connected four passes, including the last one, Sydney Roderick’s feed to Mia Buckingham on a two-on-one, with Lauren Zuhoski the lone defender. Buckingham took a point-blank shot from about four meters from the goal, but Hoeg was equal to it, coming up with a save with two seconds left, clinching Mattituck’s first berth in a state final in dramatic fashion.

“She was pretty close,” Claudia Hoeg, the player of the game, said after her six-save performance at SUNY/Cortland. “There were no defenders nearby so it was kind of a little nervewracking. It was a low shot. I kind of put my stick down and hoped for the best.”

Mattituck senior midfielder Chelsea Marlborough, who had two goals and two assists, said, “I’ve never been more proud of her.”

Mattituck (14-5) advances to its first state final Saturday against Bronxville (18-4) in a rematch of last year’s Class C semifinal, which Bronxville won by six goals. That was Mattituck’s first state semifinal appearance.

Mattituck faced a stiff test from South Jefferson (17-4), playing in its first state semifinal. South Jefferson is ranked first in Class D by the New York State Sportswriters Association poll and Mattituck is ranked second. The game was as tight as the difference between those rankings.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Marlborough.

With Hoeg’s goalkeeping and the backing of a defense with Alex Beebe, Ashley Burns, Brianna Fox and Zuhoski, Mattituck held South Jefferson to single-digit scoring for only the fourth time this year.

Marlborough picked a spot in the upper right corner to give Mattituck a 7-5 lead with 11 minutes, 13 seconds left to play.

Mattituck appeared to have extended that lead to three goals when Francesca Vasile-Cozzo put a shot in the net off a Marlborough pass with 3:05 to go. But that goal was disallowed after Vasile-Cozzo’s stick, as well as that of a teammate, was ruled illegal.

South Jefferson still had life. A free-position goal by Roderick made it a one-goal game with 1:53 remaining.

Riley Hoeg won the ensuing draw, with Jane DiGregorio (one goal, one assist) collecting the ball. Later, Zuhoski came up with a big loose ball with less than a minute to go.

A uniform violation by South Jefferson gave Mattituck the ball to start the game, but it was the Spartans who scored on their first shot through Molly Hall, setting up her hat trick. That was South Jefferson’s only lead.

Mattituck scored on its first three shots, with two goals by Julie Seifert and one by Maddie Schmidt.

South Jefferson never allowed Mattituck to build a lead of more than two goals.

“That was as equal a game as you could get,” Mattituck coach Matt Maloney said. He added: “I think we answered any type of run that they went on. Nothing was more than two goals. That’s huge. The draws were back and forth. We competed. They never were able to dominate any area of the game — nor were we.”

Roderick had two goals and one assist, with Savannah Fish and Megan Whitley also scoring for the Spartans.

Kaitlin Tobin had a goal for Mattituck.

It was Claudia Hoeg’s last save, more than anything, though, that this game will be remembered for.

“That was quite the 15 seconds,” Maloney said. “I really was disappointed that we gave up a shot, but hey, Claudia picked us up.”

Even Marlborough had doubts when she turned around and saw South Jefferson converging on the Mattituck goal in the final moments.

“I was mentally preparing for this OT and then everyone was around Claudia,” she said. “I couldn’t see what happened, and then she stood up and I was like, ‘Oh my God. We made it!’ ”

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Photo caption: Mattituck/Southold players celebrate following their first state semifinal win Friday over South Jefferson. (Credit: Bob Liepa)