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Girls Lacrosse: Tuckers feel at home in Riverhead

The question was posed to Matt Maloney: Can his Mattituck/Southold girls lacrosse team live up to the high standard set by last year’s New York State Class D champion Tuckers?

Without hesitation, the coach replied, “I believe so, a hundred percent.”

Recent results back up that belief, too. Mattituck defeated Mount Sinai for the first time in program history Friday, 5-4, on Kaitlin Tobin’s game-winning goal. And that came after the Tuckers fell behind, 4-1, by halftime of the Suffolk County Division II game.

“Honestly, I blacked out during the whole thing,” Mattituck defender Lauren Zuhoski said. “It was just so surreal. Honestly, it was just the best feeling ever.”

While Monday’s 9-5 non-league win over Riverhead might not have been as intoxicating, it still goes down as a quality win over a high-ranked Division I opponent.

Mattituck was officially the home team and wore its home whites even though Monday’s game was moved to the field turf at Pulaski Sports Complex in Riverhead. The Tuckers’ home grass field in Cutchogue didn’t handle recent rain well.

Regardless, the Tuckers (10-4, 8-4) looked at home en route to their fourth straight win. They never trailed, and each of the three times Riverhead (9-5, 9-3) drew even, they had an answer.

The game between two teams whose players are familiar with each other (some had played together on PAL and travel teams) featured an intriguing matchup of pairs of sisters — Mattituck’s Mackenzie and Riley Hoeg and Riverhead’s Kayla and Megan Kielbasa.

After Riverhead’s Emma Conroy evened the score at 4-4 off a pass from Lauren Kenny 3 minutes, 57 seconds into the second half, Mattituck gained separation. Mackenzie Hoeg, Julie Seifert (her second goal of the game) and Francesca Vasile-Cozzo scored for a 7-4 cushion with 9:16 to go. Vasile-Cozzo’s goal came with one second left in a man-up situation for Mattituck.

Conroy scored her second goal before Mattituck closed out the game with strikes by Maddie Schmidt and Riley Hoeg.

“When you play a slow-paced game, every possession does count and you can’t have stupid plays because you may not get another opportunity,” said Mackenzie Hoeg, who had two goals, two assists, five draw controls and two caused turnovers. “The important thing is to keep improving every single game.”

Vasile-Cozzo had three assists to go with her goal. Halle Foster also scored for Mattituck, which received four saves from Claudia Hoeg.

Riverhead, meanwhile, suffered a loss within the loss. Katie Goodale, a starting defender playing as a defensive midfielder, came off the field with an injury to her right ankle late in the game. Another injury was the last thing the Blue Waves needed. Injuries have already taken a big bite out of their lineup, forcing coach Ashley Schandel to move players around like pieces on a chessboard.

Schandel believes Goodale has a mild sprain. “She’s one of my best players,” Schandel said. “I think she’ll be OK, though. She’s tough, she’s strong. I think if she rests, she’ll be alright.”

Kenny, playing lower right attack, had two goals and two assists. Megan Kielbasa also scored. Sofia Salgado made seven saves.

“As a team right now we’re battling some injuries,” Kenny said. “We’re trying to mesh new people with each other, get some chemistry flowing. I think we played one of our better games, just a couple of mistakes that they were able to capitalize on.”

Schandel said: “I can’t say that I’m disappointed in the way that we played. We probably did the best ride that we’ve ever played all season. We got quite a few forced turnovers on the ride. We had some good pressure with our attackers out there. Our defense wasn’t too bad, either. We had a game plan and they stuck to it.”

Maloney said the win over Mount Sinai was “huge. I mean, that was such an awesome moment.”

“The sport is about overcoming adversity,” he continued. “You’re not always going to play your best. You want to. We haven’t had the best starts to games and maybe made some mistakes early in games, but when it’s been coming down to crunch time, I feel like they’ve kind of learned how to win in those moments and learned how to execute in pressure situations, which should hopefully prepare them for a playoff run.”

That triumph over Mount Sinai makes for a nice memory, but Zuhoski knows full well that more big tests await. She said, “We didn’t win anything just yet.”

Photo caption: Mackenzie Hoeg, who had two goals and two assists for Mattituck/Southold, tries to find a way around Riverhead’s Emma Panciocco. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

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