The highly anticipated debut of the Mattituck/Southold/Greenport girls soccer team turned out to be a rocky one Saturday morning.
After enduring three disappointing postponements (two due to Suffolk County-wide heat alerts and one because of the lack of available officials), the fourth time to play turned out not to be the charm as the team dropped its season opener to Rocky Point, 3-0, at Southold High School.
It was the first game since Mattituck merged with the Southold/Greenport program.
“Just like every other first game, it was messy,” junior goalkeeper Sarah Santacroce said. “But I think we just played as hard as we could and that’s all I could ask for from this team because we haven’t played together. We scrimmaged small-sided in practice, but we never played together against another team.”
MSG — the combined squad doesn’t have a nickname yet — was scheduled to kick off the season against Mount Sinai last Tuesday, but a Suffolk County-wide heat alert forced the game’s postponement. Ditto for Thursday’s game against West Babylon. Officials weren’t available for a game Friday.
“Frustrating because last year we had three games under our belt by this time,” midfielder-forward Jillian Golden said. “It’s very different. I felt frustrated because as a team we work best when we keep playing together. I was stir-crazy. Everybody was stir-crazy. We wanted it so badly. Everyone wanted to play. We were done with just practicing and practicing, heat alerts. We just wanted to play.”
Much is expected of this team. Last year Southold/Greenport (14-5) reached the Class C state semifinals for the first time. Mattituck (13-5) traditionally has one of the county’s best Class B girls programs.
But there will be growing pains meshing the programs together. Saturday was the first time the squad performed against another with a full 11-player side.
“We just need to play with each other more and get used to how each other plays against another team,” junior midfielder-forward Claire Gatz said. “I think once we get more used to each other we’ll be able to distribute the ball more, keep possession more and work together because we haven’t had that bond yet but we’re going to. We just have to play together more.”
Head coach Chris Golden reminded his team that while it was important to win, the game would not mean anything quantitatively in its quest to reach the Class B tournament because the Eagles are a Class A school. “We won’t see them again,” he said. “The key is the Bs.”
A pair of freshmen made life difficult for the hosts as striker Gianna Amendola set up two goals and midfielder Victoria Curreri scored one and assisted on another for the Eagles. Amendola played more like a senior as she drove the MSG defense crazy with her runs and dribbling, especially on the right side.
She was a part of the first goal with 28 minutes and 15 seconds remaining in the first half. Santacroce was forced to kick away a back pass quickly out of bounds. That set up a throw-in by sophomore defender Emmarose Hanson. The ball eventually went to Amendola, who found Curreri on the left side of the penalty area for a 1-0 lead.
“That was a miscommunication,” said Santacroce, who was outstanding with 16 saves. “We need to go over some situational things. Sometimes things happen. It’s something that we can go over in practice, for sure. The defense talking to each other, working together.”
Rocky Point doubled its advantage with 8:30 left in the half as Clare Levy took advantage of a turnover off a Curreri feed deep in the MSG end. Sophomore Kaleigh Wilgeroth closed out the scoring off an Amendola feed with 17:41 remaining in the match.
MSG’s big guns, Golden and Gatz, had opportunities to score. Gatz, off a Golden pass, was denied by goalkeeper Julia Darby 2:16 into the match and had a volley saved early in the second half. Golden had her chances, including booting a close-range opportunity over the net with 9:12 left in the game.
“If we put one in the net right there, who knows? Maybe it’s 1-0 or 1-1 at the half,” Chris Golden said.
Golden and Gatz started the game at striker but were moved to the midfield during the first half when MSG struggled there. The team improved as the game went on.
Jillian Golden, who led Long Island goal scorers (33) last year, shrugged off the loss.
“I think we will be a force to be reckoned with, with all the other B schools,” she said. “I think we will be the dominant B and the As are just for fitness and working on things. Of course, I always love to win. We love to win. We don’t get our heads down on over As. That we are not concerned with.”
Photo caption: The new Mattituck/Southold/Greenport girls soccer team played its first game Saturday. (Credit: Garret Meade)