For the fourth straight season, the Mattituck boys soccer team eliminated Southampton from the Suffolk County Class B playoffs, this time with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory at home on October 30 in the semifinals.
The Tuckers went on to defeat Center Moriches, 5-1, on Saturday for their fourth consecutive Class B county title. Mattituck, the defending Long Island Champion, played Nassau County Champ Carle Place on Tuesday for this year’s Long Island title.
“It was a close game,” Southampton head coach Dave Riley said of the loss. “There were a couple of little breakdowns that they capitalized on, and we had some opportunities too that we weren’t able to use. There’s nothing to be ashamed of against what ended up being the county champion.”
For a little more than a half, it looked as though Southampton was going to end its four-year streak of being ousted in the playoffs by Mattituck. Just about 12 minutes into the game, Southampton sophomore Gianluca Santacruz received the ball in the box on a feed from senior Stephen Swiderski. Santacruz turned quickly on his defender and shot the ball hard, which was initially stopped by Mattituck senior goalie Stephen Ostrowski, but Santacruz quickly gathered the rebound and scored to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
The Tuckers answered 20 minutes later when Mattituck junior James Hayes put a long ball into the box that was received by junior Kaan Ilgin. Southampton junior goalie Garrett Pike was caught a little too far out of the goal and Ilgin capitalized to tie things up at 1-1.
Less than a minute later, though, Southampton struck back. Senior Mariner Stefan Djurasic, off a set piece near midfield, put a nice ball in the box. After a few bounces, Southampton sophomore Jesse Scanlon came from the far side of the field, leaped and headed the ball in to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead, which was the score at halftime.
After some back and forth play to start the second half, Mattituck started to pour on the shots. Finally, with a little more than 18 minutes left in the game, Mattituck junior Mario Arreola started a nice give-and-go with junior Joe Tardif. Arreola beat his defender to the ball and scored past a diving Pike to knot the game at 2-2.
With 5:28 remaining in regulation, Arreola was able to get behind the Southampton defense and catch Pike out of the goal and he gave the Tuckers their first lead of the game and eventual victory.
Riley said that there was a bit of a communication breakdown that led to the eventual game-winning goal. The Mariners were drawing a high line with their defense and Mattituck sent a deep ball that Arreola was able to keep onsides.
“It was bad timing on our part,” Riley explained. “Our defense was organizing as it started and Mattituck is a good team. Mario managed to stay onsides. It was a good attempt and one he was able to keep control of.”
Southampton is going to remember a few near scores. In the 20th minute of the second half, senior Elliot LaGuardia had a nice cross into the box that Santacruz could barely get a foot on. Had he had a step on his defender he may have been able to score with a wide open net. Then in the eighth minute, Djurasic put another nice ball in the box off another set piece and LaGuardia headed the ball just over the goal.
“I think we played a little too defensive in the second half,” Riley said. “Mattituck came out very hard, and we knew that they would, but we failed to convert our defense into offense. We lost our offensive edge.”
The Mariners have a few things they can hang their hats on heading into the offseason—their two goals were the most an opposing team has scored at Mattituck’s home field this season and it was just the second time that a team has scored multiple goals against the Tuckers.
Southampton will now have to regroup but will do so without a number of seniors who graduate in June. They include Stefan and Milos Djurasic, LaGuardia, Artur Barbosa, Andrew Gardner, Ben Pereira, Stephen Swiderski, Tyler Wisner and Ezekiel Martinez, who had the tough job of covering one of the best players in Suffolk County in Ilgin and did well limiting him to just the one goal. Both Djurasic brothers were five-year varsity players, while Barbosa and Wisner were three-year players.
“This group of seniors was a good group, for sure,” Riley said. “Stefan and Milos, their dedication to soccer and to the program has been tremendous. They were always hyper-aggressive on the field, and I think that rubbed some people the wrong way, but they’re hard workers and talented soccer players. They’ve had a good run.”
The Mariners that are returning, including Santacruz, Scanlon, Pike, Ale Rojas, Hunter West and Kevin Dexter, who missed most of the season due to injuries, have a lot to live up to next season.
“Ultimately, they’ve had a high standard, in terms of work ethic, and guys are going to have to live up to that,” Riley said.