Mattituck/Southold is seeded 13th among 26 teams in Suffolk County Division II. It’s the highest preseason ranking the Tuckers have ever had.
That’s what happens when a team has the sort of historic season Mattituck had last year, the greatest in its history. It was a year that saw the Tuckers (12-7) capture their first Suffolk County and Long Island championships before reaching the New York State Class D semifinals.
So, the seeding is a sign of respect, as coach John Amato sees it, not only for those postseason titles, but also for what his team did during the regular season. “Last year we beat a lot of teams [and] that surprised a lot of people during the regular season,” he said, referring to come-from-behind victories over Hauppauge, Elwood/John Glenn and Kings Park.
Mattituck’s third straight trip to a county final proved to be a charm. This time the Tuckers prevailed, 4-2, in a defensive battle against Babylon.
From there Mattituck went on to secure its first Long Island crown four days later, courtesy of a 10-4 defeat of Oyster Bay.
And then, it was onto the state semifinals. That’s when Mattituck fell to the eventual state champion, Pleasantville, by a 20-7 count at the University of Albany.
Is a repeat of that sort of a run realistic?
Amato believes it is, with a caveat. “The key is to realize that it’s just not going to be given to us,” he said. “Every day at practice we have to get out, get after it and earn it.”
Of course, it helps to have an All-County midfielder/attackman like senior Max Kruszeski. Kruszeski, a varsity starter since he was an eighth-grader, tallied 64 goals and 25 assists last season. He became the first lacrosse player from Southold High School to sign for an NCAA Division I school, Marquette.
“I don’t see much difference in him from when he first started as an eighth-grader to now,” Amato said. “Every single practice he just wants to compete.”
Senior midfielders Ryan Seifert, Greg Hauser (16 goals, 12 assists) and Willie Burns are returning starters along with five juniors — attackman/midfielder Dane Reda (20 goals, 35 assists), attackman Ethan Schmidt (39 goals, 15 assists) and defensemen Colby Suglia, Cole DiGregorio and Matthew Warns.
“We don’t have a lot of numbers, but we have quality — quality, talented players,” said Amato.
Other returners are midfielder/defenseman Shane Kollen, faceoff specialist Parker Sheppard, attackman Matthew Seifert (Ryan’s brother) and defensemen Tyler Marlborough, Tom Wilson and Jaden Ford.
With the graduation of goalie Shaun Howell, that position is being competed for by two juniors, Tyler Shuford and Luke Wojtas. “Both have strengths,” Amato said. “Not really sure yet who’s going to be the guy.”
With the higher seeding comes a tougher schedule. Amato is fine with that.
“We’re going to be playing a lot of tough teams, a lot of bigger schools during the season, but it’s a good way to test our guys, to see where we stand against the competition,” he said. “Some of the schools we play are the best in the country and I want to see how we stack up against them.”
As delightful as last season was for the Tuckers, the past is in the past. They want to make more history in 2019.
“This year no one cares about what we did last year,” Amato said. “If anything, people are ready for us now because they’re not going to take us lightly.
“I like the enthusiasm that I see from the boys and I see how they’re more confident. They’re proud of what they have done. They said to me that last year’s season [produced] some of their greatest high school memories.”
Photo caption: Mattituck/Southold players celebrating their first Suffolk County championship last year. A Long Island title followed. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)