Summer league quest ends in semifinals

His team had just been eliminated from the Town of Brookhaven Soccer Summer League boys’ playoffs, but all things considered, Mattituck High School head coach Dan O’Sullivan was in an upbeat mood.

After dropping a 1-0 decision to John Glenn/Elwood in the semifinals at Diamonds in the Pines park Monday night, O’Sullivan saw greener pastures ahead for his team, including a potential Suffolk County Class B championship this fall.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “We have very high expectations. Last year’s team, we had the talent. A lot of those guys are back. They have the hunger. We’re ready to go.”

Losing to the top-seeded team in the playoffs — Glenn is 10-0-1 and is a Class A school — certainly wasn’t the end of the world. Mattituck (5-5-2), and another Class B side, Port Jefferson, were the two smallest schools among the 14 teams in the summer league.

“When you see the standings, you have to expect greatness from them,” O’Sullivan said of Glenn.

“They were good competition because they’re a higher school,” midfielder Tommy McGunnigle said. “They were a bigger school than us, so we had to work hard, but I felt like we played pretty well.”

McGunnigle got no argument from junior goalkeeper Andrew Wines. “It wasn’t that bad of a loss,” he said. “We played very well. We had some good passing plays. Communication is a big thing that we should work on as a team, especially in the back into the midfield.”

The summer league essentially is high school soccer’s version of spring training for teams to focus on fitness and form, bond together and give newcomers an opportunity to learn the rigors of varsity soccer.

For example, Wines, who is expected to backup senior Jack Golder in the fall, got valuable game time and experience this summer.

Wines said that his goal was “to get more used to the playing style that we have in the back and how we play on the top to get to the ball” and work on his communication with the back line.

Freshman midfielder-forward Andy Mancia, who played junior high ball last year after transferring from Greenport, has shown much promise.

“It’s an opportunity for me to learn,” said Mancia, who scored his first goal in a 3-0 win over Mount Sinai on June 28.

“You could see his confidence building as the summer’s gone on,” O’Sullivan said.

Glenn scored the game’s lone goal 2 minutes and 25 seconds into the match as Anthony Bell headed home Matt Greer’s free kick.

“We kind of fell asleep,” O’Sullivan said. “It didn’t look like anybody really jumped for their mark. But after that, I felt like we settled down.”

O’Sullivan and assistant coach Rafael Morais made some tweaks at halftime. The Tuckers found their footing in the second half but could not find the back of the net.

Although playing well in the summer league is important, the fall season is a much higher priority. Mattituck played without three senior midfielders due to injuries — Brady Dwyer, Erick Morales and Cris Arreola.

“All three could have played but Raf and myself, after talking to them and their parents, said there is no reason to rush them back,” O’Sullivan said. “We have very high expectations for this upcoming season. I’d rather get those two or three weeks [off] and be ready for preseason.”

Preseason is just around the corner.

The Tuckers begin prepping for the fall on Aug. 21, exactly three weeks after Monday’s loss. A week later, on Aug. 28, they will kick off their campaign with a non-league match at archrival Center Moriches.

Losing only two seniors to graduation, the Tuckers have high hopes.

“I’m looking forward to the season a lot. It looks like we have a solid squad,” McGunnigle said. “I think we’re going to go far.”

With a three-week break, O’Sullivan gave his team some instructions during his post-game talk.

“You’ve got to continue to get together, just to build that team bond, but also for your fitness’ sake,” he said. “If you show up on Aug. 21 and the coaching staff sees you guys are in relatively good shape, we can get more in our tactics earlier and not have to worry about fitness as much.”

That might help the Tuckers reach their ultimate goal: a return to Diamonds in the Pines for the county Class B final Oct. 28.