With a year under its belt after the merger of two high school girls soccer programs, coach Chris Golden is optimistic Mattituck/Southold/Greenport will be a force among Suffolk County Class B teams again.
“I’m extremely optimistic,” Golden said. “We have a really good returning core of players and our younger players. When you bring players up to the varsity for the first time there is a sorting out process in terms of where their best positions are suited for and what their roles are going to be. When that is all settled, my feeling is there no reason why we can’t return, especially to the county B championship game.”
Last year there were some questions. MSG (9-9 last year) endured a difficult transition process as it lost its opening six games, scoring twice. But once the squad found its rhythm, it was virtually unstoppable the rest of the way, winning nine of its last 12 games and capturing the county title with a 3-0 triumph over Babylon before dropping a 2-0 decision to Nassau County champion Wheatley in the Long Island final.
“We had a good number of seniors,” Golden said. “That’s difficult when you’re asking seniors who have played for so long as part of one program to come together and make good. Not that they didn’t do a good job. It’s easier when you have players who have come up through a unified, consistent program. So, this year, we have that.
“It’s about developing the cohesiveness and solidifying MSG, the program. The girls are a unified North Fork program. It’s not so much, ‘I’m from Mattituck or I’m from Southold or Greenport.’ It’s part of MSG soccer. What I am looking to build is that cohesiveness that should exist in a program and as well as provide making sure that we have younger kids playing. As our seniors graduate, we have other players available and ready to step up and play at the next level.”
Golden is encouraged that seven starters, all seniors, return to form the team’s core. That includes defender Jillian Orr, defender/forward Nikki Searles and midfielders Kaitlin Tobin and Halle Foster.
Standout midfielder/forward Claire Gatz (eight goals, five assists), a five-year starter, is expected to lead the attack.
“Claire brings years of experience,” Golden said. “Along with that she brings an absolute incredible work rate, probably one of the hardest working players that I’ve had the opportunity work with. Just nonstop. She’s fit. She’s a good leader, just a tremendous asset to our program. She’s going to be the heart and soul of our team.”
Sarah Santacroce, who excelled whether she was in goal or playing center back in 2018, will have a say in when she wants to play either position.
“I’m a big believer, especially when players get to be seniors, they have a voice where they’re playing on the field in terms of developing and expanding their role,” Golden said. “I’ll leave it up to Sarah. We’ve talked. Sarah is going to pretty much let me know the games she would want to play goal and the games she wants to be on the field in. Sarah’s a smart, athletic, player. I trust her judgment.”
MSG boasts Saira Bachez, whom Golden called “a tremendous central defender.” He said: “Saira is athletic, fast and a hard-nosed competitor. She is going to anchor our back line this year. So, we’re fortunate to have her.”
The versatile Maggie Bruer, who played all midfield positions last year, including forward, will be the key player up front.
“What’s lost is that people don’t realize how hard working and tenacious Maggie is and really a big part of our team,” Golden said. “We are going to ask her to hopefully to put the ball in the net as often as she can possibly do. She’s another player who brings great leadership and hard work.”
Photo caption: Claire Gatz, a five-year varsity starter, will be the “heart and soul” of Mattituck/Southold/Greenport, said coach Chris Golden. (Credit: Bob Liepa, file)