Two weeks into the Suffolk County high school girls soccer season, Jillian Golden and Claire Gatz haven’t lived up to the preseason hopes and expectations of Mattituck/Southold/Greenport’s dynamo duo.
At least not yet.
Still, the season is young. Since this new team is the product of the merger of two very good programs, the transition might take a little longer than planned.
Through their first three games of the season, neither Golden and Gatz, considered two of the most dangerous midfielder-forwards in the county, hadn’t found the net.
MSG head coach Chris Golden felt that will take care of itself.
“Here’s the great thing about Jillian and Claire,” he said. “They’re both sums to a bigger part or a bigger puzzle. Both of them individually are capable of doing some very good things. But collectively they become better because of the people around them. So in this case you’re going to see Jill and Claire do extremely well because of all the people that they have around them.”
Entering Monday’s game against Babylon, MSG, a Class B team, was 0-3 without a goal against Class A sides.
Now that was a bit surprising because Jillian Golden, a senior, led Suffolk in goals last year with 33 (she added 16 assists) for Southold/Greenport. Gatz, a junior, had an excellent season as well with 14 goals and 11 assists for Mattituck.
Gatz has been optimistic.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said recently. “We played when we were little together on a local club team. We had a lot of fun, too. We played really well together. I think it’s going to be really great again this season.”
The two girls performed together on a team with the Mattituck Soccer Club several years ago.
Jillian Golden has admired Gatz from afar as well, playing as high school rivals the last two years.
“I am so [happy] playing with her than playing against her,” she said. “Playing against her was a pain because she was so good. The chemistry, we’re both smart players. You’re going to see explosive attacking-ness from her, like her coming out of midfield. I’ve seen it during summer league and it was beautiful the way she took on all the players. And from me, I like to pass around, find seams. I like to create plays during the game. I think our chemistry, to be honest, is going to be really fun to watch.”
Both players have played striker and midfield. In a season-opening 3-0 loss to Rocky Point Sept. 8, they started the match up front but eventually were deployed to the midfield.
After her scintillating season while helping lead Southold/Greenport to the state semifinals, Jillian Golden has a tough act to follow — herself.
“For me as her coach, last year she was thrust into a role that had a lot of pressure on it, to score goals,” said Chris Golden, who is Jillian’s father. “It’s like I’m going to use it like Giancarlo Stanton for the Yankees. What does he have to do? He has to hit home runs. If he doesn’t hit home runs, there’s a lot of pressure and then people are kind of saying, ‘You’re not doing it.’ Last year her role was to score goals. That was a lot of pressure.
“To her credit, she really did a great job in that role. This year, her role is going to be also to put the ball into the net, but to distribute the ball, to trust more of her teammates because she has a great surrounding cast this year. More importantly, as a senior, now to be a leader, to step up in other areas. She doesn’t have to be that one person to shoulder the load. Her role is still to put the ball into the net, but it is also going to change in other ways.”
Jillian Golden said she wasn’t into goal counting. Wins, however, are another matter.
“My personal expectations are the same as the team’s expectations,” she said. “I want the team to do well, the team to succeed, the program to succeed. I want to leave a legacy for the girls in five years who could play. I mean, high school is great. I really focus on the team bonding, the experience you get in high school. Trophies and goals, they’re all just statistics and numbers in the end. When you look back, you don’t really recall that part. You say, ‘I had a great time playing soccer.’ So that’s all that really matters — this year as being a senior.”
Photo caption: Jillian Golden, right, playing in Mattituck/Southold/Greenport’s season-opening loss to Rocky Point, put up 33 goals and 16 assists last season. Claire Gatz, left, had 14 goals and 11 assists for Mattituck last year. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)