Slowly but surely, a stunned and disappointed Mattituck boys soccer team walked off the field at Diamond in the Pines in Coram on Saturday evening.
The Tuckers had just lost the Suffolk County Class B final to top-seeded Babylon in penalty kicks, 7-6, after playing to a 110-minute scoreless draw.
What made it even more excruciating was that the Tuckers came close to scoring in the second overtime and had enjoyed a 3-1 shootout advantage. They were one conversion, or one Babylon miss, away from reaching Tuesday’s Long Island championship game. The Panthers rallied to win in the tie-breaker’s ninth round.
“It hurts even more because we had three, four opportunities to close it,” senior defender Jude Couch said. “We couldn’t the close deal but that’s what happens in PKs. It’s never set in stone you’re going to win.”
Third-seeded Mattituck (14-3-1) entered the match on a high coming after upsetting No. 2 Southampton on penalty kicks, 7-6, on Thursday after playing to a 1-1 tie.
“I wanted to win this more than anything in my entire life,” Couch said. “It would have meant the world. Being a senior, being a captain, it would have felt incredible to get our first championship in [seven] years.”
Head coach Dan O’Sullivan was proud of the team’s fighting spirit.
“We gave everything we had; left it all out on the field,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. Every single kid that played just like the other night. They gave everything they had. When it ended and went to PKs, I kind of was confident because we were in the spot the other night.”
After both teams could not solve the opposing goalkeeper — Mattituck’s Garrett Grathwohl and Babylon’s Troy Schipf had saved everything that was kicked or headed their way — O’Sullivan made a switch in the net. He brought on PK specialist Jack Golder. He made a penalty save against Southampton and produced two against the Panthers.
Three rounds into the shootout, Mattituck enjoyed a 3-1 lead. Golder had saved the first attempt by Luca Giammarino and watched Carlos Berrios kick his try over the crossbar. Kuba Kodym, Jude Couch and Erik McKenna put their shots home for the Tuckers and, they appeared to be heading to play Nassau County champion Carle Place in Uniondale on Tuesday. But Nico Giammarino and Kye Castelluccio converted their attempts for Babylon, and Erick Morales and Wesley Secaida missed their PKs as the tie-breaker was knotted up at 3-3 after five rounds.
During the sudden-death portion, both teams put their shots away — Luke Couch, Tommy McGunningle and Cris Arreola for the Tuckers, and Cole Conboy, Ciaran Stein and Jack Dallafranca for the Panthers. Golder saved Schipf’s attempt, but could not deny Owen Morris, who converted Babylon’s final attempt down the middle for the game-winner. Schipf came up with two big saves on Brady Dwyer and Sean Szcotka.
“I feel for the kids,” O’Sullivan said. “I mean, it’s just terrible.”
Mattituck had its chances to win in the two 15-minute, sudden-death periods. Luke Couch almost put in a long-range shot with four minutes and 19 seconds remaining in the first OT. He also forced Schipf to parry his hard shot with 12:30 left.
With 21 seconds remaining in the game, Babylon’s Lucas Montalto forced Grathwohl to make a two-handed save.
“We should have won,” said Kudom, a junior who finished third among Suffolk scorers (22 goals, 10 assists). “We had many chances to win the game. We had a lot of chances in overtime because they were tired. We were physically fit for overtime.”
That it went that far should not be surprising because the two sides battled to 1-0 results during the League VI regular season with each team winning once. Mattituck was one of two teams that defeated Babylon (16-2).
“We knew that we were good,” Jude Couch said. “We knew that we were one of the best teams if not the best team in this league. I think we surprised a few teams pulling out some wins regular season. It’s just [stinks] that we couldn’t get the win here to surprise everyone even more so.”