Tuckers take down Center Moriches, advance to division finals

They could not have asked for a better turnaround.

After suffering an eight-goal defeat to Center Moriches last week and losing the opportunity to host a playoff game, the Mattituck/Southold/Greenport High School girls lacrosse team vowed to not endure a similar fate in the Suffolk County Class D semifinals.

On Thursday, the Tuckers made good on that pledge in spectacular fashion.

Overcoming a two-goal deficit in the second half, MSG scored six of the seven final goals to earn a 15-12 triumph over the host Red Devils and punch a ticket to Thursday’s final.

“This is the best thing ever,” said senior Ella Suglia, who recorded a career-high five goals, along with two assists. “We finally got the win that I think we deserved. We’ve been competing this whole year and we haven’t been able to produce. Everything just came together and finally all clicked. It was a great win.”

The victory avenged that 18-10 home loss on May 9.

“Last week we got down on ourselves when they got up a lot,” Suglia said. “Today, we turned it around. We had the pedal to the metal. We were just killing it. We had that mindset that no matter what score it is, it could be 0-0, it could be 20-0, we’re going to keep hustling to the final whistle.”

It was a classic battle between two long-time rivals that saw seven lead changes and seven ties in an intense, entertaining confrontation. Center Moriches (8-9) boasts three dangerous goal-scorers in Charlotte Castiglione and Payton Noack, who finished with hat-tricks, and Megan Magill (one goal), while the Tuckers (10-7) flourished with a more balanced attack.

Seven players scored as MSG booked a spot in the final against Babylon in Mastic Beach on Thursday. Freshman Page Kellershon, whose goal with 10:28 remaining snapped an 11-11 deadlock, set up two insurance tallies by junior Sofia Knudsen in the final 2:19.

Freshman Gianna Calise, who acquitted herself well on faceoffs, contributed two goals, as did seniors Sage Foster and Megan Tobin (one assist). Brynn Gardner added a goal. 

Junior goalie Aiko Fujita came up huge (11 saves), denying Center Moriches on several point-blank opportunities.

“I know I had my worst game against Center the first time,” she said. “No one said I did terrible. They all have my back.”

On Thursday, Fujita returned the favor.

“She is just so calm, cool and collected at all times,” head coach Logan McGinn said. “She doesn’t get rattled. If one goes in, she’s ‘I’m on to the next one.’ I don’t think you could find a better goalie or just a better person to have such leadership qualities as a junior.”

The hosts rallied from a 9-7 deficit early in the second half, scoring four consecutive goals to grab an 11-9 advantage 13:05 into the half. Then the Tuckers erupted. Suglia connected for two goals down the stretch, the first at 8:07. Foster tied it at 11 from close range 50 seconds later.

Kellershon broke the tie at 14:52. Suglia gave the visitors some breathing room with a nifty move around the right side at 17:19. Then Kellershon set up Knudsen twice within a 39-second span late in the match.

“It was a great game to be in,” Knudsen said. “I like the pressure because I feel like it makes you play better.”

No argument from McGinn. “The one shot when she had the top corner, it was just the dagger,” he said. “You can see it deflated the other team and elevated us. Two big-time goals by a big-time player. It was impressive.”

So was Kellershon.

“Page is a special kid,” McGinn said. “I would be very surprised if you don’t read about her not only just in lacrosse. She is a phenomenal player that I get to have her for three more years. So, everybody should be ready.”

In a rare championship doubleheader that will feature both Tuckers teams at the Lincoln Avenue Sports Complex on May 25, the Mattituck boys team will meet Babylon for the Class D crown at 4 p.m., with the girls side playing at 6:30 p.m.

“It is very cool,” McGinn said. “We do so many things with the boys team. I’m very close friends with the boys coach [John Amato]. He calls me after our games. I call him after his games. It’s such a supportive Mattituck lacrosse community.

“We’re taking the bus out early. We’re going to watch them play. Then we’re going to play,” McGinn said. Hopefully, it’s a Mattituck sweep.”