Through the first quarter Friday, one might have wondered: Who were those imposters wearing Mattituck/Southold lacrosse uniforms.
The defending Long Island Class D champions barely looked like a shadow of themselves for those opening 12 minutes as they struggled against Center Moriches, loser of 11 of its previous 12 games. Goals by Nick Baust, Alex Hermsdorf and Richard Spivak had spotted Center Moriches a 3-2 lead in the opening quarter.
Mattituck’s early sub-par play could be attributed to a shortened pregame warmup (rain poured before the game) or the distractions and emotions that come with Senior Day.
The important thing, however, is the real Tuckers finally showed up, flipped the “ON” switch and dominated the final 36 minutes for an emphatic 17-4 win on the wet grass at Mattituck High School.
“We all knew it was coming,” said Max Kruszeski, who brought Mattituck six goals and one assist. “It was just a matter of when.”
Kruszeski, a five-year varsity player who will take his talents to the Big East next season with Marquette, was recognized in a postgame ceremony along with the team’s three other seniors — William Burns, Greg Hauser and Ryan Seifert. All four of them are midfielders.
“This is a group of special seniors for us,” coach John Amato said during the ceremony. “There’s only four of them, but they mean a lot to our team.
“These guys, I felt like they would never graduate our program. I’ve known them a long, long time, and I was making a joke of it that they’re all midfielders. These guys do the dirty work for our team. They’re a big, big reason for our success this year. They’re going to be hard to replace. They do the little things that not everyone notices. They do the grinding. They get the ground balls. They run, they clear back and forth, and we thank you guys, honestly, from the bottom of our hearts for everything you’ve given us over the years.”
Matt Seifert, a freshman attack who had two goals and four assists and is Ryan’s brother, spoke highly of the seniors. “They’re a great group of people,” he said. “We’re going to miss them next year and it’s going to be tough replacing them.”
Following the lackluster start, Mattituck (8-6, 6-6) pulled itself together in impressive fashion for its fourth win in five games.
“I knew we had it in us,” Matt Seifert said. “We clicked all of a sudden, and once we clicked, we knew we’d win.”
The Tuckers won 23 of 26 faceoffs and received two goals apiece from Hauser, Burns and Parker Sheppard. Ryan Seifert and Matthew Warns had a goal and an assist each. Ethan Schmidt also scored for Mattituck. Kruszeski, Warns and Cole DiGregorio scooped up five ground balls each.
Mattituck opened the second quarter with a 5-0 burst — two of those goals coming from Kruszeski — for a 7-3 lead. After Center Moriches’ Dylan Gabriel scored the snazziest goal of the day, an over-the-right-shoulder beauty with his back to the goal, Mattituck closed the game on a 10-0 run.
The oddest goal of the game was the first of those goals, Warns’ first of the season. Warns mishandled a pass to him in front of the Center Moriches goal and the ball somehow ended up in the goal. “I kind of just dropped it and it somehow rolled in,” the long-stick middie said. “I just missed the pass.”
Shortly after the game ended, the Tuckers were already looking ahead to their next game on Monday at Elwood/John Glenn.
Matt Seifert said, “We have to come out on Monday and beat John Glenn — that’s a big game for our playoff position — and then we’ll see what happens from there.”
Kruszeski, the most senior member of the team, acknowledged that a lot rides on that game. Before looking ahead, though, he was asked to reflect on his Senior Day experience.
“It’s very bittersweet,” he said. “I’ve been with Coach Amato for five years since I was in eighth grade and being a senior, I was excited to play in this game, excited to honor the rest of the seniors and stuff, but it was also kind of tough and kind of sad to know that this is my last year and that I’m not coming back next year.”
Photo caption: Mattituck/Southold’s Ethan Schmidt examines his passing options while Center Moriches defenders converge on him. (Credit: Bob Liepa)