The Mattituck/Southold boys lacrosse team has come up short in its quest for redemption.
Unable to overcome a seven-goal second-quarter burst by Briarcliff, the Tuckers fell 10-3 to the Bears in the Class D state semifinals at Adelphi University June 5, once again coming up one win short in their second straight push for the program’s first state final berth.
“I’m so proud of where this program has come and I’m blessed to say I’ve been part of it,” said senior Max Kruszeski, who’s been on the team since eighth grade. “I’ve grown extremely close to this program, my coaches, and the guys I’ve played with that it’s so hard to see it finally come to an end.”
Matt Seifert scored Mattituck’s (13-6) first goal just over nine minutes in to even the score at 1, but Briarcliff’s Anthony Capasso and Jackson Ricciardi racked up three goals each during an 8-0 wave from the end of the first through the second to weaken whatever momentum the Tuckers may have had.
“Our style of play has always been to push the tempo and play fast — that’s something that has always worked,” Kruszeski said. “It was very tough playing against their zone and our sets against the zone weren’t working as we expected.”
Kruszeski scored the final goal of his illustrious five-year varsity career — the Tuckers’ final goal of the game — with 4:54 left to play.
“It was definitely very emotional … scoring the last goal of this season and of my career definitely means a lot to me and is something I’ll remember for quite some time,” said the Marquette University-bound senior, who is the first lacrosse player from Southold and second from the Mattituck/Southold area to sign to play with a Division I team. “We wanted to adjust our play in the offensive zone because they were locking me off. We discussed something to do with that and to just keep pushing transition and the opportunities will come.”
Teammate Dane Reda found the netting before him off an assist from Ethan Schmidt, but the Tuckers struggled to gain possession and made a handful of errors that led to turnovers, making it that much tougher to mount a comeback.
“Early in the game we had some good long offensive possessions that just didn’t turn into points,” Reda said. “It felt like their defense knew all our sets and it was very frustrating, and their opposition was very good … we could tell that from their warm up. I think a couple guys were intimidated by that.”
Kruszeski, who was presented with a sportsmanship award after the game, also picked up four ground balls, as did Parker Sheppard and Colby Suglia.Mattituck goalie Luke Wojtas made nine saves before being relieved by Tyler Shuford with 4:11 to go in the game. Briarcliff (18-4) outshot Mattituck 36-20.
“They were a great team and so unlike teams we have played all year. They’re extremely fundamentally sound and all of them played their role and were able to execute better than us,” Kruszeski said. “But the energy and commitment to this program has grown tremendously. Coach John Amato comes to practice every day motivated to bring Mattituck into the conversation as an elite team on Long Island. Coach Amato and the great players that have come through this program have put Mattituck on the map.”
Along with Kruszeski, the Tuckers bid farewell to Greg Hauser, Ryan Seifert, and Willie Burns. Reda, a junior, said they’re all tremendous losses.
“The seniors this year are going to be hard to replace, not only because they are all midfielders but because they worked super hard every day,” said Reda, noting the nine other soon-to-be seniors, but lack of juniors returning to next year’s team (three). “My goal for the past two years has been to win a state championship, and we came up short both times. So next year we’ll be extra motivated. I think we can get there for sure, but we’ll need our younger guys to step up big.”