For the first time in the program’s 82-year history, the Mattituck High School boys soccer team finished below .500 last year.
The Tuckers completed a disappointing 6-12 season after falling to eventual state champion Center Moriches in the Suffolk County Class B final, 6-0.
Head coach Will Hayes hopes not to finish under water again. Mattituck, which endured an injury-riddled season, has seven starters returning who played in that championship game.
“We were forced to throw our younger players in the cauldron and see how they turned out,” Hayes said. “We became a battle-scarred squad.”
Still, Hayes will rely on three seniors who have fought a few battles themselves — goalkeeper James Jacobs, center back-central midfielder Bryce Grathwohl and midfielder-forward Alp Kilinic.
Jacobs has started virtually every Tuckers match — he’s at 52 and counting — since the first game of his freshman year. “I don’t know what the record is for games in goal at Mattituck, but he probably has it,” Hayes said.
They’ll get support from junior midfielder-forward Jack Burkhardt, the younger brother of David Burkhardt, who once tallied 25 goals in a season for Mattituck, senior central midfielder Charles Bordsen, who can play several positions, and center back Chris Nicholson. Nicholson missed eight games last year with an injury before emerging as an impact player down the stretch.
The Tuckers were placed in League VII with Class C and D teams. For the first time in years, they won’t tussle with their eternal rival, Center Moriches (League VI), for league supremacy. They will meet in a non-league road encounter on Sept. 17.
“It will be a good barometer for both schools,” Hayes said.
Andrew Sadowski, the dean of Suffolk boys soccer coaches, enters his 25th year as Southold head coach (277-128-21) cautiously optimistic. As coach of a perennial playoff team that has won nine county titles since he took over in 1994, Sadowski’s goals are modest.
“My first goal is to be competitive and qualify for the playoffs,” he said. “I don’t want the boys to look too far ahead. You have to earn it.”
Sadowski’s main concern is finding someone who can find the back of the net on a regular basis to replace the graduated Ryan Hermann (21 goals). One leading candidate is junior forward Joe Silvestro (nine goals).
Perhaps Sadowski will find some goals from senior midfielders Joe Hayes, Joe Baumann and Von Carsten. His defense is well fortified with junior goalkeeper Cole Brigham, who started as a sophomore, and junior defenders Tyler Woodhull and Stephen Schill.
The First Settlers (14-3-1), who will call a new artificial turf field home this season, should be bolstered by the return of senior defender Devin Quinones, who had put his energy toward playing tennis last year, and junior midfielder-forward Max Pasko.
“I think he missed playing with his friends,” Sadowski said of Quinones. “Glad to have him back.”
As they have in recent years, the Settlers have used dancing in their preseason routine, which could help them in the long run. “A tremendous amount of cardio work goes into it,” Sadowski said, adding that it helps with the players’ agility as well. “We try to keep it fun for them.”
Greenport (10-7) is primed for a big season as the Porters lost only one starter from its Suffolk Class C semifinal side.
“The program is ready to take off,” head coach Sean Charters said.
Three impact players returning for their senior season as captains are expected to be role models and leaders — striker William Chapeton (18 goals, two assists), defender Jason Cruz and midfielder Jacob Kahn.
Junior midfielder David Pineda (12 goals), senior midfielder Mateo Arias (four goals), senior forward-midfielder Jaxan Swann (three goals) and sophomore forward-midfielder Kevin Azama (three goals) should add to what could become a potent attack.
Midfielder Chris Kucynski, a transfer from Bishop McGann-Mercy, is versatile; he can play anywhere.
“We played really well,” Charters said of last season. “Our record needs to improve. Last year we made the playoffs. We need to grind out a couple of more wins. The intensity needs to come up in games a little more.”
Before his team tackles League VII foes, Charters has decided to challenge the Porters against larger schools. After scrimmaging at Riverhead (Class AA) yesterday, Greenport will meet Westhampton Beach (Class A) in a scrimmage today and host Rocky Point (Class A) in a non-league season opener Friday at 10 a.m. The Porters visit Class AA state finalist Half Hollow Hills West on Monday at 10 a.m.
“I told the guys I wanted to get them a pretty good match,” Charters said of Hills West. “Go out there, give it all you’ve got. Learn how these guys play. They’ve been to the championship game before.”
Photo caption: Senior goalkeeper James Jacobs has started virtually every match for Mattituck — 52 — since the first game of his freshman year. (Credit: Garret Meade)