11/15/14 11:22am
11/15/2014 11:22 AM
From left, Mattitucks' Axel Rodrigues-Canel and Ryan Foster celebrate a goal against Skaneateles in the NYSPHSAA Class B semifinals in Middletown Saturday. (Credit: Sarah Jean Condon)

From left, Mattitucks’ Axel Rodrigues-Canel and Ryan Foster celebrate a goal against Skaneateles in the NYSPHSAA Class B semifinals in Middletown Saturday. (Credit: Sarah Jean Condon)


Referee Larry Bechard blew his whistle to signify the end of play.

The score was 5-0 in favor of Mattituck as the happy Tuckers walked off the Twin Towers Middle School field in Middletown, N.Y. smiling and hugging each other for a job well done.

And it was only halftime of the New York State Class B semifinals against Skaneateles Saturday morning.

In their most dominating performance of the season, the Tuckers made that score stand up and then some, adding another goal late in the match to register a 6-0 triumph over the Section III school. Mattituck (18-2) will gun for its third state title at Middletown H.S. at 10 a.m. Sunday against Beekmantown (Section VII; 18-2-0), 1-0 winners over Livonia.

The Tuckers would have preferred to have played Livonia, which eliminated them from the state semifinals in 2012, but you don’t always get what you want.

On Saturday, though, the Tuckers seemingly did whatever they wanted against the Lakers (17-3-1). Senior Mario Arreola led the way with two goals and one assist. Freshman Axel Rodrigues-Canel, called up from the JV, put the exclamation point on a virtuoso performance with 5:24 remaining on a cold, crisp, 37-degree morning.

“I don’t like the cold,” Arreola said. “Scoring goals keeps me warm, running around. I played the best soccer I’ve played in a long time today.”

Actually, Arreola and the Tuckers were more than warm. They were hot.

“The first 40 minutes was some of the best soccer that you can possibly watch, not even just from our own team,” Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said. “It was our best 40 minutes. I was really, extremely proud of the ways the guys came out and dealt with the cold, got up early. From the opening whistle, they were dominant.”

Litchhult felt the loss to Livonia was part of his senior-laden team’s motivation.

“Being here as sophomores and the feeling of going home after the semifinals really pushed them and drove them,” he said. “Knowing that most of these guys are seniors and knowing the end is near you just have to leave it on the field. What we talked about before the match, these are great opportunities and big players rise to big occasions. I can’t point to somebody on our team who had a down match. Every single player that stepped on the field rose to the occasion.”

The Tuckers made quick work of the Lakers. Walter Jacob, a left back, scored off an Arreola pass at 8:20. Paul Hayes headed in a Kaan Ilgin corner kick at 12:58. Arreola put home a John Batuello feed from the top of the penalty area at 27:07 before James Hayes headed home a Kevin Williams corner kick at the right far post at 29:06 and Arreola scored on a breakaway with 2:01 left in the half.

It was then left up to the defense and goalkeepers Ben Knowles and Nick Vitolano, who came on with 4:08 left, to secure the clean sheet.

Litchhult had to call a few audibles. Instead of attending the state banquet Friday night, the team ate at a local Italian restaurant.

“Litch wanted us to stay away from Skaneateles, just wanted to keep our heads away from them,” Paul Hayes said. “There were some Twitter battles. It was a smart call.”

The Tuckers were scheduled to eat breakfast in the same room of their hotel room Saturday morning, but Litchhult thought better of it and brought in bagels, bananas, water and Gatorade for the team to eat in their rooms.

“It is kind of a weird setup,” he said. “When you are a few doors down from the team you’re playing in the same hallway in the hotel, separated by maybe or door or two, it kind of leads to some awkward tension.

“I didn’t think it would be an opportunity for us to go down there and rub elbows with a team that we’re going to be stepping onto the field with in a couple of hours. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Unlike their some of their recent championship wins, the Tuckers did not celebrate after this one.

“It’s not over yet,” Paul Hayes said. “It’s great to win 6-0. I’m smiling. I’m happy, I’m speechless. But my goal is to win tomorrow.”

The Mattituck boys soccer team celebrates its 6-0 win over Skaneateles Saturday in the Class B state semifinals. (Credit: Michael Lewis)

The Mattituck boys soccer team celebrates its 6-0 win over Skaneateles Saturday in the Class B state semifinals. (Credit: Michael Lewis)

10/30/13 7:37pm
10/30/2013 7:37 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | The Tuckers rejoiced following their comeback triumph over Southampton on Wednesday.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | The Tuckers rejoiced following their comeback triumph over Southampton on Wednesday.


There’s a reason why he has been nicknamed Super Mario, and Mario Arreola demonstrated why in the final 20 minutes of Mattituck’s exciting comeback win over Southampton on Wednesday.

Arreola took the game into his own hands, actually his feet, as the senior forward struck for the equalizer midway through the second half and the game-winner with 5 minutes 28 seconds left to rally the Tuckers to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Southampton in a Suffolk County Class B boys soccer semifinal in Mattituck.

“That’s the Mario we’ve known from the summer,” Mattituck goalkeeper and co-captain Steven Ostrowski said of Arreola, whose 17 goals helped Mattituck to the Town of Brookhaven small schools summer league title. “I knew he was going to come out sooner or later. I knew he was going to put us on his back.”

And back into the Suffolk Class B final for the fourth consecutive year. The three-time defending county champion Tuckers will meet Center Moriches, a 2-1 winner over Hampton Bays, at Diamond in the Pines in Coram at 5 p.m. Saturday.

“It was a fantastic game. They guy showed a lot of grit, showed a lot of heart,” Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said. “It’s the first time we faced a lot of adversity this year, giving up a goal early. We’ve lost two games in double overtime. When you’re in double overtime, you get scored on and the game’s over. This was the first time we were down in a game all season long. It always made me a little nervous.”

But the Tuckers (14-2) found a way.

“That is the definition of Mattituck soccer,” Ostrowski said. “We will come through anything. They put us through hell. That’s what you have to face when you play a team three times. You know them and they know you. You beat them twice and they know how you beat them and they can work on that. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. And that’s an understatement.”

The Mariners (10-6-1) pressured the hosts from the opening kickoff, winning 50-50 balls and marking their foes closely. They grabbed a 2-1 halftime lead on goals by Gianluca Santacruz (12th minute) and Jesse Scanlon (34th), sandwiched around the one by Tuckers forward Kaan Ilgin (32nd).

“Our halftime speech was that we wanted to win the second half two-nil,” Litchhult said. “There was a lot of game to play.”

It took a while before the Tuckers solved goalkeeper Garrett Pike and Arreola took center stage.

“The first 60 minutes I was testing my groin,” Arreola said. “The last 20 minutes I just turned it on. I guess it’s getting better.”

First, on a give-and-go with Joe Tardif, Arreola bolted down the right flank, turned inside and powered home a 10-yard shot.

The equalizing pass actually came off the right shoe of midfielder Kevin Diffley, which Tardif was forced to wear because he had torn his right cleat in practice, and did not have another.

“They were the same brand as mine. So I ended it up putting that one on,” he said. “Hey, it worked.”

Arreola played like a player possessed. Central defender Patrick Hayes, who cleared a ball off the goal line two minutes before the equalizer, had his header saved in the 63rd minute. Arreola sent a header wide right a minute later and his shot from the right side sailed wide left in the 65th minute.

Arreola was only warming up. Right fullback Erik Schwartz sent a long ball down the right flank to the striker, who chipped Pike to the far post for a 3-2 advantage to complete the comeback in the 75th minute.

“Great pass, great finish,” Litchhult said. “The last goal was Mario from the summer. Something went on. There was a switch there. I’ve been trying to get that switch on a little earlier throughout the year.”

Immediately after the game Mattituck coach MAT LITCHHULT did not know if junior central midfielder KEVIN WILLIAMS would be available Saturday. Williams suffered a possible broken left arm in the 48th minute. He was to be operated on Wednesday.

“We’re hoping for the best-case scenario that he gets to wrap it up,” Litchhult said, “but we don’t know. It’s too early to tell.”

10/16/13 11:31pm
10/16/2013 11:31 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's Oscar Puluc, right, tracking down Center Moriches' Josue Lazo-Molina.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck’s Oscar Puluc, right, tracking down Center Moriches’ Josue Lazo-Molina.


When the Mattituck and Center Moriches boys soccer teams tussle, they usually play close, classic confrontations. Wednesday’s encounter proved to be the exception, thanks an exceptional performance by the Tuckers.

Sparked by three first-half goals, including two scores within a 31-second span, Mattituck recorded a stunning 5-0 home triumph over their archrivals.

Now, Center Moriches (10-2-1, 7-2-1 League VII) is hardly your everyday, run-of-the-mill high school team. The Red Devils are among the best among Class B teams, having won the 2009 state title.

Kaan Ilgin was credited with two goals and set up both of Mario Arreola’s scores. Kevin Williams converted a penalty kick to lift the Tuckers (11-2, 10-1) to the League VII crown in arguably one of their best performances of the season with the Suffolk County Class B semifinals looming on Oct. 30.

“It was one of our better overall performances,” Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said. “We scored some great goals. The guys played from start to finish. Center Moriches plays so hard all the time, puts you under so much pressure and the guys handled it very well. We executed a lot of things we talked about in practice. When it translates to the game, it’s nice.”

Litchhult downplayed the huge final margin.

“We can’t sit back and think we’re five goals better than Center Moriches on any given day because we’re not,” he said. “Are we a good, solid team? Yes. We have to get a little reality check, look at the game on a whole. Did we dominate possession, did we dominate chances? One hundred percent. We have to temper down the score.”

Center Moriches coach Chris O’Brien felt his team had some work to do.

“We just got beat in all aspects of the game,” he said. “It wasn’t our day. We’ve got to be better than this. This wasn’t our typical team. This certainly wasn’t our ‘A’ game. They played very well. All credit to them. They scored some beautiful goals.”

The game dramatically changed during a 31-second span. Ilgin’s hard left-wing cross resulted in the first goal with 30:48 remaining in the first half, going off defender Cameron Stankelis.

“I saw people just running to the goal and I just hit it as hard as I could,” Ilgin said. “I knew it was going to hit someone.”

Only 31 seconds later, Stankelis fouled Williams in the box. Williams converted past goalkeeper Peter Connolly and into the left corner.

Then came the first “beautiful” highlight goal with 20:56 remaining. Ilgin bolted past two midfielders and found Arreola on the left side before his teammate slotted the ball back to him for a 3-0 lead.

“That’s what we always do,” Arreola said. “We always know where we are. I don’t know how to explain it. We just know where we are.”

Litchhult believed that goal put the Tuckers over the hump.

“Three-nil makes it a game where you have a comfortable lead,” he said. “Our third goal on a counter was probably one of the best soccer goals. Unselfish between Mario and Kaan. Just a super play. That goal kind of puts the game to bed.”

After Arreola’s first goal 96 seconds into the second half, he scored a highlight-reel goal of his own with 14:32 left in the match, volleying home an Ilgin corner kick.

“He was wide open,” Ilgin said. “They didn’t mark him. Usually on the corners they don’t mark short players, so I bent it to him. Nice volley, upper 90.”

The Tuckers faced adversity when a bloodied senior keeper Steve Ostrowski was forced from the game with 6:18 left in the first half with a cut on his nose. Junior Ben Knowles came on and acquitted himself well.

“It’s a big spot for a backup keeper who doesn’t have a lot of experience to step in and take the starter’s job the rest of the game,” Litchhult said. “We always talk about next year and how he’s going to try to take over and fill Steve’s shoes, and I think he will do a great job. Today it came a little bit earlier. … He gained some good experience.”

The game ended on a somber note as Center Moriches midfielder Matt Argyropoulos suffered an apparent left knee injury with 51.1 seconds remaining.

“It looks like it’s pretty serious,” O’Brien said.

With darkness descending, the referees called the game early.

09/26/13 10:00am
09/26/2013 10:00 AM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO |  Mattituck senior Oscar Puluc fights for possession in Wednesday’s League VII win over rival Center Moriches.


On a team that possesses some strong playing personalities, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle on the Mattituck boys soccer team, especially for a goalkeeper.

Due to the Tuckers’ possession game, the keeper might not see any action for long stretches of time. So, senior goalkeeper and co-captain Steven Ostrowski lets his teammates know that he is involved in the match when he shouts encouragement to his teammates.

On Wednesday, Ostrowski let his actions speak louder than any words he could have uttered during the Tuckers’ 1-0 triumph over host Center Moriches in a Suffolk County League VII game in what could be the biggest rivalry in the county.

Mattituck (6-1-0, 5-1-0 League VII) chalked up a rare road win at Moriches (4-1-1, 2-1-1 League VII) behind a Mario Arreola’s first-half goal, some key saves by Ostrowski and a poor decision by a Center Moriches player who thought an indirect kick was a direct kick, squandering a second-half opportunity for the hosts to equalize in the hard-fought contest. Moriches wound up playing a man down the final 27:46.

Extra Point: No rivalry quite like Mattituck-Center Moriches

While it might not have been the most technical game between the two arch rivals — the Tuckers have beaten the Red Devils in the last three Class B championship games — there was no question both sides left it on the Moriches’ football field.

“I am going to sleep well,” Arreola said. “I scored the goal, the winning goal and it’s important.”

“I haven’t gotten a chance to catch my breath yet,” Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said. “That’s Mattituck and Center Moriches soccer. It didn’t matter that they had 10 guys. They played right to the end. They have gave us everything that we can handle. We didn’t have any good results here in the last couple of years.”

Moriches pressed for a second-half equalizer. Ostrowski saved a header by Anthony Parlato, but could not retain possession of the ball on the goal line. A scramble ensued as several players fell over one another. Mattituck center back Paul Hayes wound up with the ball between his legs. The referee called an indirect free kick for a dangerous play.

“I had possession of the ball and the kid headed me out, which should have been the initial foul,” Ostrowski said. “The ref, I guess missed that.”

Kevin O’Brien quickly took the free kick and fired it into the net, but it was disallowed by referees because it was an indirect free kick and needed to be touched by another player before entering the net.

“Everyone’s really confused,” Ostrowski said. “They tried to pull a fast one and play it and put it in the goal, but it was an indirect kick so when the ball crossed the goal line it was just a goal kick.”

And Moriches missed a fabulous opportunity to tie the game.

“We have to be a little bit more composed than we were in various aspects, understanding what the situation was,” Moriches coach Chris O’Brien said. “If that’s a direct foul, that’s a PK, no question about it, but that being said, I mean, the ref’s hand’s up, we have to have a little bit more composure. It was a perfect opportunity to tie the game, but we also lose composure and have a kid red-carded, too.”

It went from bad to worse for the hosts when forward Jake Sweeney was given a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct following the play. Since it was his second yellow, he was ejected, forcing Center Moriches to play a man down the rest of the way.

“You can’t do that against Mattituck,” O’Brien said. “It’s tough enough to play them full strength. You don’t want to play them when you’re short, down a man.”

Ostrowski (seven saves) denied the host on several occasions, including parrying a 40-yard free kick by Kevin O’Brien over the crossbar with 12:36 remaining in the first half.

What Ostrowski couldn’t get to, Hayes did.

“That kid comes up huge for me so much,” he said. “He cleared the ball off the line once. The ball came in so fast. I was like looking at, thinking I was going to get it and he was right there to clear it out.”

Arreola had given the Tuckers the lead with 19:13 left in the first half when he scored from two yards, converting Mike O’Rourke’s rebound off the right post.

“It was a lucky play,” Arreola said. “It was right in front of me and I just had to kick it in.

07/15/13 11:49pm
07/15/2013 11:49 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's Oscar Puluc went airborne during a collision with Mount Sinai's Alec Donowitz.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck’s Oscar Puluc went airborne during a collision with Mount Sinai’s Alec Donowitz.

Goal scoring in soccer is anything but easy. It’s hard work. And yet, Mario Arreola has that magnificent knack for making it look so easy.

The way his goal production has been going this summer, the Mattituck striker may soon have a nickname: Super Mario. Last fall Arreola knocked in 12 goals for the Tuckers during his sophomore season. He has already bagged 10 in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League.

“I’m just a striker, and that’s my job,” he said.

Arreola could end up as the king of the goal scorers among the league’s small schools.

“We’ve become accustomed to every summer league game he scores,” Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said. “I just think he’s playing at a very high level right now. His skill on the ball is excellent. His pace, he just runs by guys.”

Arreola said he has always been good at putting the ball in the net. Are there any secrets to that skill?

“Just practice,” he said.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mario Arreola scored two goals for Mattituck against Mount Sinai, including the game-winner with half a minute to go. He has 10 goals this summer.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mario Arreola scored two goals for Mattituck against Mount Sinai, including the game-winner with half a minute to go. He has 10 goals this summer.

Some know-how doesn’t hurt, either. Arreola scored both Mattituck goals in a 2-1 victory over Mount Sinai at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai on Monday evening. It was Arreola’s tie-breaking goal with a half-minute to go, though, that caught Litchhult’s eye. After collecting a ball from Dan Fedun near the top of the penalty area, Arreola saw the goalkeeper venture off the goal line a little bit. That’s when Arreola opted to go for precision and placement over power.

“He chipped him and put a little spin on it, just enough to score the goal,” Litchhult said. “That’s what goal scorers do. Not everything is a laser.”

The goal was an indication of a player who has confidence, maturity and the presence of mind to think quickly under pressure.

“Everything he does is so smooth,” said Litchhult.

In the first half, Arreola had spotted Mattituck (5-2) a 1-0 lead off John Batuello’s eighth assist of the season.

Mount Sinai (1-6) was denied an equalizer, not once but twice early in the second half. Mattituck goalkeeper Steve Ostrowski, one of only two seniors listed on the roster (Oscar Puluc is the other), stopped a penalty kick by Rob Conti. Conti chased after the rebound and pounded a follow-up shot off the left goalpost.

But the Mustangs finally drew even with about four minutes remaining. Joe Casper punched in a close-range blast after a left-wing cross from Chris Marrs.

It looked as if the teams would have to settle for a tie, but Arreola’s work was not done for the day.

Litchhult said he will need Arreola and twins James and Paul Hayes to lead the way this year. Another player who is being counted on to produce on the field is Batuello, a sophomore center midfielder. Batuello sustained a hip fracture last August and sat out the entire school season. He said he doesn’t know how the fracture occurred. Last December Batuello underwent an operation to have a screw inserted into the hip. He returned to the field in March.

“It was really tough just watching” soccer, Batuello said. “I missed it so much. Every opportunity I get [to play] is awesome.”

Batuello said months of physical rehabilitation have paid off and his hip is fine now. “I’ve been working it a lot and stretching, so now it’s 100 percent and it feels good,” he said.

That’s good news for the Tuckers, who can use Batuello’s talents in central midfield.

“In all actuality, if we’re going to do things, he’s going to have to help the team,” said Litchhult.

“John has got a good head on his shoulders,” the coach added. “He gets the ball down, he gets his head up and he’s looking for Mario.”

That’s always a wise move.

Goal scoring has been called the joy of soccer. Arreola, undoubtedly, is enjoying his hot streak.

“Everything’s working for me right now and I’m happy for that,” Arreola said. “It’s just fun when you score goals.”

No one could argue with that — except a goalkeeper.

[email protected]