Boys lacrosse: Tuckers play hard in tough early season

Even against a larger school, the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold boys lacrosse team thought the game was winnable.

But when the Tuckers pulled within striking distance against host Sayville, they became their own worst enemies.

A dropped pass here, an interception and a missed opportunity there led to a frustrating, 6-4 defeat on a blustery, cold Saturday morning.

“It was a good test for us. I think we should have come out on top, but we just didn’t execute,” said junior midfielder Justin Fox, who scored a hat trick. “That’s something we’ve got to work on. All the guys are working their tails off, but we could have won.”

Several times Mattituck (0-5, 0-3) gained possession, but couldn’t get it past goalie Mikey Sands or wound up giving the ball away in the Suffolk County Division II encounter.

Photos by Robert O’Rourk

“We were sloppy,” said co-captain and senior midfielder Alex Clark, who scored a goal. “We had our chances. We have to capitalize. Missed passes, missed catches. We’ve got to play better. There’s times where we executed but then other times came up short.”

The Tuckers were forced to chase the game.

Luke Hanson scored just 46 seconds after the opening faceoff for the Golden Flash (2-3, 1-2) and Javen Taff added the first of his two goals at 2:52 for a 2-0 advantage.

After taking a pass from Clark, Fox made a brilliant run down the right side before beating Sands (10 saves) on the flank to cut the lead in half at 8:41.

“He played great,” Mattituck head coach John Amato said of Fox. “He was finding good cuts, good lanes. He does a lot for us. He plays a lot of defense, [gets] ground balls, scoring. Today he embraced that role.”

Sayville lacrosse, however, closed out the quarter with two goals within 34 seconds. Taff tallied his second at 10:03 before Aiden Meyer connected from the right side past goalie Andrew McKenzie (12 saves) at 10:37 for a 4-1 lead.

Mattituck kept it close. Clark scored from point-blank range for the team’s second goal five minutes into the second period. But Conner Batterberry tallied from close range for a 5-2 halftime lead.

The Tuckers continued to grind away, holding Sayville scoreless in the third quarter before Fox drilled home a hard shot with 16.5 seconds remaining to pull within two. But Batterberry responded with his second tally at 4:02 of the fourth frame. Fox scored the final goal from in close at 7:28.

Mattituck had several opportunities to make Sayville sweat but could not hold onto the ball long enough and suffered several giveaways.

But what the Tuckers lacked in execution, they made up for in their never-say-die attitude.

“They just keep proving their toughness, their grittiness and their no quit mentality,” Amato said. “They just keep showing that game in, game out. They’re not giving up. They’re fighting and they’re working. They have trust in the process. They understand we have a tough schedule to start the season. But it’s part of the process of getting better and getting to where we have to be.”

Besides plotting strategy, one of Amato’s responsibilities is to keep the lacrosse team’s spirit up during difficult times.

“I’m very honest with them, very transparent,” he said. “That’s important. I tell them it’s about life. Like anything you’re doing in life, you go all out, and then you see what happens. Then you have no regrets as long as you go 100%. I tell them we do that in lacrosse, but that’ll carry into their real world and apply that there every day.”

Last season Mattituck endured similar hardships against Class B and C schools before winning the Class D crown.

The Tuckers will soon face opponents closer to their size, visiting Babylon (April 25), hosting Port Jefferson (May 3) and Center Moriches (May 9).

“Playing these bigger schools really helps us build our confidence,” Fox said. “Big stadiums, lots of players on the sideline, big players, it helps us in the long run.”

“It’s good that we start off with these teams and then fix all our problems now” added Clark. “By the time we get to more important games like the playoffs, we’re ready.”

If they acquit themselves well in those matches, the Tuckers will have an opportunity to again compete for the Class D crown.

“We’re all excited,” Clark said. “We have a chance to get a bunch of wins and turn our season around starting soon.”