Girls Lacrosse: Tuckers goalie stops shots any way she can

Kate Murphy had heard it before, from both her mother and coach. She has a lacrosse stick in her hands for a reason — use it when defending her goal.

But the Mattituck/Southold goalie also has the mindset of a goalie: Stop the ball any way possible, even if it means using body parts. As Murphy put it, “as long as it’s not in the goal, I don’t really care how it stops.”

Coach Logan McGinn chuckled when the subject was brought up. “She does hit her body a lot,” he said. “I’ve said it to her, too. She said, ‘It doesn’t go in, right?’ I said, ‘You’re right, I guess.’ ”

The ball found its way into the Mattituck goal 11 times Monday at Miller Place High School, but it easily could have been more if not for Murphy’s gutsy efforts. She was credited with a career-high 15 saves in Mattituck’s 11-3 Suffolk County Division II loss.

“She definitely saved us a lot today,” said Mattituck midfielder Brynn Gardner.

Mattituck had a strong goalie last year in Rylie Rittberg, but Rittberg has since graduated and is now tending net for Florida Southern College. That has opened up a big opportunity for Murphy, who played for the junior varsity team last year. The junior has played every minute in each of Mattituck’s first three games in this young season.

One goalie leaves, another emerges. It’s the cycle of lacrosse life.

“I’ve always loved being goalie,” Murphy said. “I like being able to do something I can help my team with.”

McGinn likes what he has seen from Murphy, calling her “something special. She’s constantly just throwing her body in front of the ball. She’s smart with the ball. She’s an awesome goalie to have, you know, especially for being her first year on varsity.”

But not even Murphy’s goalkeeping was enough to prevent Miller Place and sharpshooting senior attack Andie Mott from winning the day. Miller Place, which raised its record to 4-1 (3-1 in the division), struck for the game’s first six goals (four by Mott and another she assisted on). By the game’s end, Mott had seven goals from nine shots. Three of her goals came from free-position shots.

Brynn Gardner, who appeared to be running on air, brought Mattituck/Southold a goal and an assist. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Sophia Ingenito finished with one goal, one assist, four draw controls and four ground balls. Amelia Angelo, Abigail O’Connor and Olivia Ingenito also scored for the Panthers. Natalia Altebrando made 11 saves.

“I think a little bit of nerves maybe played a factor,” McGinn said. “We definitely came out flat and then, you know, for a short stint we actually got to show what we can do, which was nice.”

After falling behind 6-0, Mattituck suddenly turned things on and pumped in three straight second-half goals within a 4-minute, 33-second span. Ella Suglia found a cutting Gardner in front of the net for the first of them. Then Gianna Calise scored from a free-position effort and Sofia Knudsen deposited a nice feed from Gardner.

“I definitely feel like there was a little bit more energy on the field and we weren’t making sloppy mistakes there,” said Gardner, a High Point University (N.C.) commit. “But then I think we started to get tired again, and that’s something that we definitely have to work on.”

Miller Place regained momentum and ran off five unanswered goals (four by Mott) in the final 9:08.

Mattituck had opened the season with a pair of decisive division wins — 17-3 over Deer Park and 11-4 over Elwood/John Glenn. But Miller Place was a different story for the young Tuckers.

Mattituck returns only five players from last year’s team: defenders Rileigh Frend and Ansley Hanus, midfielders Megan Tobin and Gardner and attack Sage Foster. Frend and attack Cassidy Czujko are the team’s only seniors. Mattituck also has a pair of eighth-graders among its regular starters, Page Kellershon and Calise.

Perhaps the shiny 2-0 record Mattituck took into Monday’s game carried with it some false confidence.

“I definitely think it was a little bit of a reality check,” Gardner said. “Maybe we needed [that] after a 2-0 win streak.”

Murphy said: “I think that some people had a really good day and a lot of people had maybe not as good of a day, but we are a team and it doesn’t matter what happens individually, we have to do it together. And I think that we have our work cut out for the rest of this year, but I’m happy to be part of the team.”

And the team is surely happy to have the goalie who doesn’t mind putting her body where her stick should be.