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Girls Lacrosse: Tuckers are returning to state semis

The Mattituck/Southold Tuckers are back where they want to be.

Since Mattituck’s six-goal loss to Bronxville in last year’s New York State Class D girls lacrosse semifinals, the Tuckers have been itching to return to that stage. “Ever since that loss I think it’s been our motivation,” said senior midfielder Jane DiGregorio.

On Sunday they got their wish.

Following the exact same path they took last year to their first state final four, Mattituck followed up a victory over Babylon in the Suffolk County final with a 16-5 defeat of Carle Place in the Long Island final Sunday at Islip High School.

“We’re getting another opportunity and we’re not going to let it end how it ended last season,” said DiGregorio, who registered four goals and one assist. “We’re going to prove ourselves up there.”

The joyful Tuckers (13-5) lifted their second Long Island championship plaque, beaming about the opportunity that lays before them. They advance to a state semifinal Friday morning against South Jefferson (18-3) at SUNY/Cortland, the site of their 13-7 loss to Bronxville last year.

South Jefferson is ranked No. 1 in Class C by the New York State Sportswriters Association. It will be the first time the Spartans have played in a state semifinal. Mattituck is ranked second.

Mattituck coach Matt Maloney said his team has been looking forward to this opportunity.

“Literally, when last year ended, they couldn’t wait to get on the field,” he told reporters. “We do a lot of offseason stuff, but actually playing these games that matter the most, they couldn’t wait. A year felt like two and a half years. They really kind of waited it out. They played a tough regular-season schedule and I think it’s paying off. I hope it continues to pay off one more week for us.”

As the unquestioned favorite, Mattituck felt the pressure of coming away with a win Sunday.

How about that favorite status?

DiGregorio said, “I think my whole high school career I’ve always been the underdog and this year I finally was the favorite so it’s definitely a weird feeling, but I don’t know, it’s a different kind of pressure.”

Junior attack/midfielder Riley Hoeg said: “We couldn’t get too cocky about it. There have been a lot of upsets this year and we didn’t want to be one of those teams, so we just wanted to stay focused and play our game.”

It was goals galore for Mattituck, with an offense led by Riley Hoeg (three goals, three assists), her sister Mackenzie Hoeg (three goals, two assists), Francesca Vasile-Cozzo (one goal, four assists) and DiGregorio. They kept Carle Place goalie Jen Tumino (nine saves) busy. Julie Seifert tallied a pair of goals while Chelsea Marlborough and Kaitlin Tobin added a goal and an assist. Ashley Burns also scored for Mattituck. Marlborough controlled 13 of 18 draws.

Mattituck goalies Claudia Hoeg (one save) and Alex Talbot (four) split the game.

Carle Place (7-7) was led by Julia Winer (two goals, one assist) and Abby Selhorn (two goals).

After falling behind, 2-1, Mattituck ran off the next five straight goals, including two by DiGregorio.

A free-position goal by Winer pulled Carle Place to within 6-3, but that was as close as the Frogs got. A 6-0 run by Mattituck erased any doubt about the result.

“We executed on all parts of the field,” said Riley Hoeg, who has 37 goals and 38 assists this year. “Our ride was really good today. Our defense did a great job.”

Even with that, DiGregorio saw room for improvement, though. “I think overall we played sloppy,” she said. “I mean, you can’t complain because you just won a Long Island championship, but I think Monday we need to get to practice, ready to work and just sharpen up our game because I know we’re better than how we played.”

On Sunday, though, Mission Possible became Mission Accomplished. Mattituck is going back to the state semis.

“The great thing about these guys is it’s not the coaches or me wanting to get back or that it’s a goal of mine,” Maloney said. “It’s their goal. These guys have bought into what it takes to get there and they’ve bought into putting everything into getting back there and being better this year. I’m excited to see what happens.”

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Photo caption: From left, Jane DiGregorio, Chelsea Marlborough, Alexandra Beebe and Ashley Burns raise Mattituck/Southold’s second Long Island Class D championship plaque in as many years. (Credit: Garret Meade)