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Boys Lacrosse: After emotional ceremony in late player’s honor, Tuckers dominate

All of the Mattituck/Southold/Greenport players contributed to this win — as did the player who wasn’t there.

This one was for Ryan.

After an emotional tree-planting ceremony earlier in the afternoon in memory of Ryan Oliver, the Mattituck lacrosse player whose sudden death Jan. 28 shocked and shook the community, the Tuckers went out and paid tribute to him the best way they know how: by winning in impressive fashion.

On paper, Elwood/John Glenn and MSG looked to be an even match. They both shared 0-4 records (overall and in Suffolk County Division II) entering Friday’s game. But MSG was both inspired and motivated to win for Oliver. And that the host Tuckers did, 13-4, behind four goals by Tate Klipstein and three from Gavin Richards. Six other Tuckers scored.

“We’re playing our heart out for him, you know,” said sophomore long-stick midfielder Sean Lawson, who wears the No. 3 jersey Oliver would have worn. “It’s a rough season, but he’s there with us, playing alongside us.

“A lot of emotion, but I knew we had to work hard the whole game and play for one of the best teammates that I ever had.”

Several hours before game time, a tree dedication ceremony was held in Oliver’s honor near the lacrosse field. The small tree is a gift from the Class of 2023, Oliver’s class. A small plaque erected next to the tree reads in part: “IN LOVING MEMORY OF RYAN OLIVER FOREVER AND ALWAYS #3”. Near the base of the tree was a sunflower and blue and gold ribbons, Mattituck’s colors.

Sean Lawson races upfield with the ball. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Oliver was a sophomore midfielder/attackman. He had never played in a varsity game, but was promoted to the 2019 varsity team for the playoffs. Teammates raved about Oliver’s ability. Coach John Amato said Oliver would have been a starter and an impact player on last year’s team had that season not been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ryan, obviously, was a special player. He was like no other,” said Richards, a sophomore midfielder who played in winter leagues with Oliver. Richards said Oliver “was not someone you would want to go up against.”

Oliver watched the 2019 team reach the New York State Class D semifinals for a second year in a row before falling to Briarcliff in torrential rain at Adelphi University. That denied the Tuckers the opportunity to play in what would have been their first state final.

Amato said Oliver would have been “a difference-maker on that [2020] team, so I just wish for him that he had that experience. I think it would have been really special for him and the guys, and it’s unfortunate, but he was an unbelievably talented player and an even better person.”

A small tree — a gift from the Class of 2023 — in memory of Ryan Oliver. (Credit: Bob Liepa)

MSG received contributions from many Friday. Liam Buckley was credited with four assists. Matthew Seifert had a goal and two assists. Shane Clark and Nick DeNicola each had a goal and an assist. MSG goals were also provided by Marc Zappulla, John Lajda and Lexington Horton. Flynn Klipstein won 11 of 17 faceoffs and collected nine ground balls. 

MSG’s dominance was reflected in its 40-16 shots advantage and 46-29 superiority in ground balls. Franklin Mastrangelo (five saves) was well-protected.

“We came out firing, just like he would have wanted us to,” said Lawson, referring to Oliver.

Amato said: “I was a little worried that they would be a little too emotional but, honestly, we just said, ‘Let’s just go after it. Let’s do it for Ryan like we always do and make him proud,’ and they did that today.”

Glenn received two goals from Chris Franzese, a goal and an assist from Matthew Szokoli and a goal by Brady Madden.

Asked afterward if it had been a difficult day for him, Amato answered: “This afternoon [at the tree ceremony], that was difficult for me. Seeing his parents is always hard. They’re the sweetest people and I love them dearly. But today felt a little bit more like a celebration and we just knew he was with us, and that’s comforting.”

Gavin Richards with the ball moves toward the gaol with pressure from defender Matthew Szokoli. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)