The pandemic that struck in early spring of 2020 couldn’t have come at a worse time for the boys lacrosse programs in Mattituck and Riverhead.
The Blue Waves in 2019 put together perhaps the best season in program history, ultimately falling in the playoffs to perennial powerhouse Ward Melville. The Tuckers that same season reached the semifinals of the Class D state tournament.
Both programs were on the rise.
When lacrosse finally returned last year, both teams found themselves scrambling in an unusually quick season that left little time for preparation. The season came and went in a blink, and neither team tallied many wins.
Now a year later, lacrosse has a more familiar feel to it.
“Last year we went through a lot,” said John Amato, coach of the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold boys team. “We stayed together though and we learned from it and grew from it. It was really hard because we didn’t have a lot of practice time because it was a condensed season.”
For Riverhead, the lost season of 2020 was only part of the problem. The failed budget that led to sports cuts for most of 2021 thinned out the pool of players, a fate felt by teams across all seasons.
On Friday afternoon, the two teams eager to climb back into contention in their respective classes met in Riverhead for an early season non-league game. As the result showed, it’s the Tuckers that appear far closer to returning to prominence.
The Tuckers, behind a dominant second quarter, cruised past Riverhead 18-7 to improve to 2-0 on the season.
“We’re starting off hot, but we’re not looking too far ahead right now,” said Mattituck senior Matt Seifert. “Obviously we want to go far in playoffs and make [Long Island championships] and go further in that, which we did three years ago. That’s the goal ultimately, but we’re not going to get too confident.”
Seifert finished with five goals and an assist in Friday’s win. Teammate Brody Richert, a talented youngster, added five goals as well, plus a pair of assists.
Seifert was a freshman on that 2019 team that reached the state semifinals. That memory serves as motivation for his final season to experience that thrill once more. And this time, in a much larger role.
“I want to bring them back,” he said. “It was awesome. A great experience.”
Seifert sparked the Tuckers’ run, scoring a goal at the buzzer to end the first quarter after scooping a ground ball in front of the cage after a miscue on Riverhead’s end. Seifert added two more at the end of the second quarter, scoring one on a big shot and a second after withstanding a slashing penalty. The Tuckers outscored Riverhead 8-0 in the second quarter to take control.
“We’re just big, tough, hungry and they play together,” Amato said. “We play as one. The ball doesn’t get stuck in their stick and they just share and play team ball, which is what we want.”
The Tuckers dominated on the face-offs behind Flynn Klipstein, who scored a goal and added two assists.
“It helps a lot when you have a good [face-off specialist] like that who always keeps the ball in your hands,” Seifert said.
Riverhead coach Vic Guadagnino acknowledged the Blue Waves face an uphill climb this year with an inexperienced and young roster.
“We just have to learn a lot, a lot of lacrosse,” he said. “We’re very limited in what we know. We have to teach A to Z, one to one million, every single step of every single part of the game.”
The Blue Waves struggled on clears, sometimes on unforced errors and other times due to pressure from the Tuckers.
Riverhead (0-2) finished with a balanced scoring total. Sean Williams, Zach Timpone and Griffin Sumwalt all scored twice. Ryken Kutner added a pair of assists.
The Blue Waves begin the league season Tuesday at Brentwood while Mattituck begins its league season at Miller Place Wednesday.