Summer soccer: Mattituck squad preps for season

Early in the second half of Mattituck High School’s opening match in the Brookhaven Summer Soccer League last Monday, senior goalkeeper Peter Ixcotoyac-Krogulec accomplished a rare feat.

He pulled off four spectacular saves within seven seconds against Miller Place at Diamond in the Pines in Coram.

Ixcotoyac-Krogulec drew praise from friend, foe and even the referee.

“Incredible!” Miller Place head coach Thomas Frank said at the time. “That should be on ESPN.”

“None of us will live long enough to see [four] saves in seconds,” said veteran referee Austin Manghan. “I’ve been around here a long, long time.”

Unfortunately, the amazing sequence was not captured on video.

Ixcotoyac-Krogulec’s performance was appreciated by Mattituck head coach Dan O’Sullivan, whose team suffered a 7-0 loss.

Seconds after the saves, O’Sullivan told this sportswriter, “I found my goalie.”

And that’s good news as O’Sullivan looks to rebuild a team that lost 21 players to graduation, including the starting goalkeeper.

Ixcotoyac-Krogulec might have made O’Sullivan’s job a bit easier at least at one position.

“Peter’s a great kid,” O’Sullivan said. “He actually just said he’s never played as my goalie or in the three years since his travel team folded.”

O’Sullivan said that he has two other keeper candidates who opted not to play during the summer.

“I’m not sure if that means that they’re playing in the fall,” he added. “I said to Peter, ‘You’ve got a great opportunity here.’ ”

Ixcotoyac-Krogulec, who has played mostly as a central midfielder in recent years, grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He sounded pragmatic about his saves. 

“When it comes to such instantaneous types of saves from that close, it’s always just instinct,” he said. “Sometimes luck plays a role. When it works out, it’s amazing.”

It was a rare bright spot for the Tuckers overall, who surrendered a pair of first-half penalty kicks and five second-half goals.

“I don’t think there was a bad performance in the first half,” Ixcotoyac-Krogulec said. “Second half, fatigue kicked in. First game of the season. It’ll get better over the summer. As the season starts, it’ll pick up even more.”

The Brookhaven league, which includes a nine-game regular season plus playoffs and runs through early August, is similar to spring training in baseball, giving coaches a chance to assess their upcoming high school rosters. It also offers younger players a glimpse at the faster, more physical play at the varsity level.

“I said to them: ‘It’s July 1,’ ” O’Sullivan said. “It was their first time ever on a varsity field. Just a chance for getting used to the flow of the game.”

O’Sullivan has been aware of the pending rebuild for a while. But it was never more apparent than during the Mattituck athletic awards ceremony on June 11, when he asked his graduating seniors to stand up to be recognized.

“It was 21 of them. When they stood up, there were just five kids sitting down,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve lost a lot.”

But he has tried to stay a step ahead, training many players on the North Fork Warriors in the Long Island Junior Soccer League.

“That gave them a chance to learn my style,” he said. “We did a lot of tactical and possession [training]. I knew what to expect when we got here. The biggest thing is trying to find positions. We are trying to find defenders. 

“I write notes during every game,” O’Sullivan added. “The five goals in the second half were defensive lapses. We didn’t have that pairing in the middle that have grown accustomed to each other, that communicate.”

O’Sullivan will again be counting on seniors to lead the way, including midfielders Sean Szczotka, the lone returning starter, and Anthony Soto.

As he was leaving the complex, O’Sullivan noticed that Szczotka and Soto were still kicking the ball around.

“That’s just who they are,” he said. “We’re going to ask a lot of them this year, but they welcome that challenge. They’ve been here for a while and they’re going to be doing a lot of the little things to get the team going. We’ll ride them.”

The duo already understands that.

“I’m like the center of the team.” Szczotka said. “I’ve got to keep them organized. I’ve got to keep everyone together. I’ve got to make sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to do and we’re working hard.”

Added Soto: “My role with the team is more of a leader, more of a captain. Tell them when to do certain stuff and when not to do certain stuff. Be a role model.”

Preseason training begins Aug. 26. The regular season kicks off Sept. 4 against Suffolk County League IX rival Greenport at home at 4:30 p.m.

By then, O’Sullivan expects to have a good handle on what he can expect from his team this fall.