TUCKERS 18, MONARCHS 2
Late in the fourth quarter Tuesday, during a seemingly mundane moment, first-year McGann-Mercy coach Tom Palasek spotted a teaching opportunity.
As one defenseman headed toward the sideline, another player prepared to race onto the field as his replacement. Only he was about to cross onto the field too early and at the wrong spot on the field. During a lacrosse game, players race on and off to the field with regularity, the kind of little detail a coach rarely has to pay attention to during the action.
Palasek stopped the two players and went over the instructions on how to properly sub on the fly. For a new program just trying to gain some traction, learning the basics represent step one.
“We’re trying to teach kids that have just started playing,” Palasek said. “The max amount of experience we have is maybe two or three years and a couple guys. There’s a lot of players that are new to the game.”
Mercy’s opponent Tuesday, Mattituck/Greenport/Southold, knows what it’s like to have a program in its early stages. The Tuckers are still one of the newest programs in Suffolk County and they are starting to find a groove under first-year coach John Amato.
While Tuesday’s games was decidedly one-sided, the Tuckers winning 18-2, it gave Mercy a glimpse of what the future could hold.
While the Tuckers won’t be county title favorites just yet, their level of play has been steadily climbing through the first few years. From 3-25 in the first two years, to 6-10 last year, the Tuckers are now 2-2 to begin this season and hoping to grab one of three Class C postseason spots.
“We’re looking to get somewhere in that top three, that’s our goal,” Amato said. “That hasn’t been done yet. We’re looking to be the first group.”
Both coaches came into their programs this spring on the eve of the first practices. It left little time to evaluate before the ball got rolling for the start of practices a month ago.
At Mercy, the focus has been on fundamentals.
Palasek learned early on that while the Monarchs had a committed group and some decent athletes, their lacrosse experience was very limited.
“We have a first-line midfielder who has great athleticism,” Palasek said. “But he didn’t know how to hold the stick. He didn’t know how to put his equipment on. Four weeks later, he’s gotten it down.”
Much of the practices at Mercy have centered on basics like passing and catching, the fundamental that leads to everything else.
“You can’t even have an offensive philosophy if you can’t pass and catch,” Palasek said. “And that goes for good teams. You can’t teach really anything unless guys can pass and catch.”
Mattituck, which picked up its first Division II win, raced out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter against Mercy and never looked back. The Tuckers scored all 18 goals in the first three quarters before taking the foot off the gas for the final 12 minutes.
Ten different players scored for Mattituck, led by a game-high four from Tim Schmidt. He also added two assists.
Jack DiGregorio scored 2 goals with 2 assists and Pat Robbins added 2 goals with an assist. Cal Seifert, James Hoeg and Pete Fouchet each had 2 goals.
After losing their previous two games by a combined 35-11, Tuesday’s win was a welcome reprieve for Mattituck.
“We are a good team when we play confident,” Amato said. “I feel like as long as the [opponent's] ranked below us, our guys go out there and play their game. But if we go against someone like Rocky Point, they tend to shy away and get away from the game.”
The challenge now for Mattituck is picking up that signature win that can help raise the team’s confidence level.
“We’re just waiting for that game to come,” Amato said. “We’ll find ourselves in a close one and hopefully pull it out. I think from there it’ll only get better for us.”
The Tuckers lost a decent number of key players from last year’s team, so the early part of the season has still been about developing chemistry and the player learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“I feel like they’re getting there,” Amato said.
The Monarchs, who do not have a junior varsity or junior high team currently developing players at younger ages, will be hard pressed to pick up a victory this year with the schedule they’re facing. They may, however, see some of the top teams play the majority of their JV against them.
Slowly, the signs of improvement have been coming.
“My little goals are we get a full pass around the perimeter, and we got a dodge and a cut through, we get an outlet,” Palasek said. “Those little goals of just being able to do that successfully once or twice.”
Mercy’s two goals came from Jack Crowley and Matt Plourde.