From a neutral spectator’s point of view, the Long Island Class D boys lacrosse final wasn’t much to look at. From Mattituck/Southold’s standpoint, though, it was a thing of beauty.
Mattituck certainly held up its end of things and couldn’t be faulted for the one-sided nature of Saturday’s game. All that counted to the Tuckers was that they had claimed a second straight Long Island championship with their 16-6 hammering of Oyster Bay at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.
“It was awesome,” said Mattituck senior midfielder Max Kruszeski, the game’s MVP who rang up four goals, three assists and four ground balls. “It was just like the county championship. Everything came together, everything clicked. We got off to a good start and we kept that good start rolling throughout the entire game.”
Mattituck returns to the state semifinals (the stage at which it was eliminated last year) and will play Briarcliff Wednesday at Adelphi University.
How expected was it that Mattituck (10-8) would repeat as a Long Island champion after achieving that for the first time last year?
“I knew we could do it,” Kruszeski said. “It was just a matter if we would.”
And the Tuckers did, thanks in part to Kruszeski’s considerable efforts as well as those of others like Parker Sheppard (19 of 26 faceoffs, one goal, 13 ground balls), Ethan Schmidt (three goals) and Dane Reda (three goals).
Oyster Bay (4-12) entered the game as the heavy underdog. Was there a danger of the Tuckers taking the Baymen lightly?
“There was definitely a danger, and our coach [John Amato] made sure that we weren’t going to take it lightly,” said Ryan Seifert, who scored twice for Mattituck. “Throughout the week we worked hard.”
Kruszeski said: “We got to do what we got to do to win the game. We can’t worry about them. We can’t worry about who they played, who they lost to, who they beat.”
Oyster Bay may have given the Tuckers something to think about when John Tiberia — who had two goals along with teammate Griffin Cook — scored the game’s opening goal.
From that point on, though, it was Mattituck’s game. The Tuckers produced five goals in each of the first three quarters. They outshot Oyster Bay, 39-29.
“I think it was one of our better games today,” Ryan Seifert said. “We played quick. We played together and our plays worked.”
Mattituck closed out the second quarter with four straight goals by Schmidt, Kruszeski, Greg Hauser and Cole DiGregorio for a 10-3 halftime lead. “We started off fast, which we wanted to do,” said Sheppard.
Then a 6-0 Mattituck burst bridging the third and fourth quarters expanded that lead to 16-4.
“Everything was clicking,” Kruszeski said. “We were moving the ball. Everyone was finding each other.”
“The same thing happened with us in the county championship game,” he continued. “We got off to a hot start, and it’s so much easier for us to keep that ball rolling when we get some confidence in us. We get a couple of goals under our belt, we’re up two or three and then everyone’s confident, everyone’s relaxed. The tension isn’t as high, and that allows people to just play the game and do their best.”
But blowouts can be tough to watch. In this one, the teams combined for 71 ground balls, 40 by Mattituck.
Matthew Seifert brought Mattituck a goal and two assists. Mattituck goalies Luke Wojtas (six) and Tyler Shuford combined for nine saves.
Kruszeski’s influence on the game couldn’t be overlooked.
“Max is just a great player,” Sheppard said. “He’s always been there for everybody on the team. He’s one of those guys that’s just going to pick you up when you’re down and I appreciate him for that, and I think the whole team does.”
Kruszeski said: “I come out every day and I tell myself, ‘I have to do whatever I can to help this team win.’ I said, ‘If I got to score, I’ll score. If I got to scoop ground balls, I’ll scoop ground balls. If I got to play defense the entire game, I’ll play defense the entire game.’ I’ll do whatever we got to do.”
On Saturday he did a lot, along with his teammates.
Photo caption: Game MVP Max Kruszeski celebrates one of his four goals for Mattituck/Southold in the Long Island Class D final against Oyster Bay. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)