It just goes to show you — a mid-season loss in April means nothing. Championships are won in May and June.
The Mattituck/Southold high school boys lacrosse team didn’t have a good day on April 4. They were beaten soundly that day, 12-7, at Port Jefferson.
“Awful game,” Mattituck attack/midfielder Dane Reda recalled. “Awful game for us.”
Putting that game behind them, the Tuckers on Tuesday looked nothing like the dispirited team they were that day. With Max Kruszeski leading the charge by scoring six first-quarter goals, Mattituck got a heavy dose of payback, beating Port Jefferson, 14-10, for its second straight Suffolk County Class D championship.
“There’s no better feeling,” said Kruszeski, who also had an assist to go with his six goals on a damp, overcast afternoon at Farmingdale State College. “We worked so hard for this, especially coming back from last year, that tough loss in the states. We knew all year that we wanted to get back here, we wanted to win this game, and it just feels great to actually come back and see our goal accomplished.”
Mattituck (9-8) will get to defend its first Long Island championship when it faces Oyster Bay (4-11) Saturday at Hofstra University.
“I feel like we came out ready to go, firing on all cylinders, and I think we just played team ball,” Mattituck/Southold coach John Amato told reporters. “We kind of knew what they were about and the boys listened to the game plan and they executed it really well.”
Kruszeski, a senior midfielder who will play for Marquette, looked determined to set the tone early and did with his burst of offense.
Amato said: “I told him before the game: ‘You’ve been doing this since you were in eighth grade.’ I’m like, ‘This is nothing for you. This is just another game.’ ”
The Tuckers shot out to an 8-2 lead and looked sharp. “Today I just saw fire in their eyes,” Amato said. “They were ready.”
Especially a motivated Kruszeski. “I told myself, ‘We can’t come out slow,’ ” he said. “I tried to do everything in my power to get my team off the ground and get them going in the first couple minutes. Because once we get that ball moving and once we get the momentum, I feel like there’s nothing really any other team can do to slow us down.”
The Tuckers led by as many as eight goals before Port Jefferson closed the game with four straight goals, two by Aidan Kaminska.
Kruszeski assisted on a goal by Ethan Schmidt (two goals, one assist) early in the second quarter, but was held pointless in the second half when Gage Jampol faceguarded him.
“It is a little frustrating, but it does happen,” Kruszeski said. “After the quarter I had, I kind of saw it coming.”
Even when Kruszeski was shut down, Mattituck’s offense still flowed as others like Ryan Seifert (two goals, one assist), Reda (two goals, one assist), Schmidt and Matthew Seifert (one goal, two assists) stepped up. Greg Hauser added a goal and an assist and Luke Wojtas made six saves.
“It’s the next guy up, exactly,” Amato said. “The depth that we have, we have a lot of good, skilled players, and Max knows that, so we don’t get nervous when we see that lock going on, when they start to faceguard him.”
Mattituck also received some good faceoff work from Parker Sheppard. “His stick broke at halftime, so that doesn’t help, but he battled and stayed in there,” said Amato.
The big threat for Port Jefferson (10-7), Kaminska, bagged four goals, giving him 47 for the year. Daniel Koban and Jampol added two goals each. Colton VanOverberghe and Jonathan Moshe each had a goal and an assist. Peter Murphy made eight saves for the Royals.
Mattituck, making its fourth appearance in a county final, had lost county title games in 2015 and 2016.
Now, Mattituck’s loss to Port Jefferson last month is a distant memory. “It’s night and day,” said Kruszeski.
The rematch was a lot brighter for Mattituck.
Photo caption: Max Kruszeski celebrates the fifth of his six first-quarter goals, which sent Mattituck/Southold on the way to its second straight county championship. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)